MARATHON EASY TARGET FOR HURRICANE IRE

TIPPING POINT

What had always been a unifying force in America’s melting pot city, the one thing that drew every New Yorker and visitor together, has now been blown apart by Hurricane Sandy.  So count the ING New York City Marathon as another victim of last Monday’s vicious storm, except this is a constituent that even FEMA can’t help put back together.

Last night’s decision to cancel the 42nd NYC Marathon by city officials and race organizers has left behind a nasty split.  A city already in tatters and tears is that much more divided than the day before.  Opposing sides in the marathon cancellation debate stare in shocked disbelief at the insensitivity of the other side, leading to arguments and recriminations posted on chat rooms, e-mails and text boxes world-wide.

From “it was the only thing to do”, to “what a wasted opportunity to rally the city”, the reaction has come as swiftly as the miles up First Avenue on race day, but as opposite as one curbside to the other. Needless to say, the overwhelming, though not 100%, view from the marathoner’s side is that the decision to call off the race was wrong-headed.

“I met a girl who flew 20 hours from Australia,” texted my friend Rich Jayne from the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon expo booth at Javitz Center which continued unabated today till 5 p.m.  “There was another guy with only a year to live and this was to be his last marathon.  When the announcement was made we had three foreign runners in our booth.  NYC is not making friends.”

While runners from the top professionals to the 40,000th placer are disappointed and upset for time and money spent and paydays lost, NYRR President and CEO Mary Wittenberg hinted at a graver concern at last night’s press conference in Central Park.

“We became concerned that runners would not receive the welcome they were used to,” she said, adding, “it’s been tough on the volunteers and staff, too, anyone associated with the marathon.”

The city’s mood had turned toxic.

“I heard organized violence was being planned,” wrote a friend in the city, “and runner’s safety was the main concern.”  Continue reading