There is a potential problem brewing in the sport, and who can say what the long-term effects could be? As was reported in the New York Times this February, in an attempt to generate increased revenues to make up for the city’s budget shortfall, the New York Police Department is looking to charge the New York Road Runners the full cost of shutting down hundreds of city streets along the five boroughs during the annual ING New York City Marathon.
This additional cost would have a significant impact on the overall staging of the event. In 2010, the NYRR paid more than $850,000 to city agencies, $107,000 of which went to the police department. According to Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of the Road Runners, the club is willing to reimburse the police for more of its costs, though how much more has yet to be determined.
Notwithstanding the $200 million in economic impact generated by the event, the potential for real harm to the marathon is apparent. What to do?
You see, the police do have a point. One of the major problems with today’s marathons is sheer numbers and time. As road racing continues to expand with its bucket listers and charity fund raisers, the time it takes them to traverse 26.2 miles is such that the police are forced to remain in position long enough to just about take root.
Therefore, in order to bridge this gap in need and cost, I propose the following: Instead of timing everyone over the 26.2 mile distance, beginning in 2012, when the winner hits the tape in Central Park, everyone just stops where they are along the course. Places and awards are then tabulated based on the total distance travelled, not total time taken.
This way we all go home about a day and a half earlier, streets are cleared faster, and the cutoff time for city officials would be something less than the official time your loving mother spent in labor giving you birth. Next year everyone would have a distance goal – “Yeah, this year I made it into Queens” – not a time one.
Furthemore, the NYRR wouldn’t be left holding a hefty bill afterwards – except for all those meat wagons they’ll need to collect the troops. But they can more than make up for that up by the savings on finisher’s medals. They’ll only need one.