Putting Partisanship Aside

Just as democratic U.S. President Barack Obama and republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were able to put their political differences aside yesterday in the face of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy – because that’s the job they were elected to do, and to hell with the political consequences five days before the presidential election – so, too, is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg simply doing his job when he declared that the ING New York City Marathon would go ahead as scheduled this Sunday morning.

“It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you know, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind,” Bloomberg said as quoted in the New York Times.

Notwithstanding, there has been a surge of criticism rising up to challenge his decision.  Everyone from 1993 World Marathon champion Mark Plaatjes of Boulder, Colorado, whose wife Shirley had planned to run, but has now chosen not to, to Staten Island borough president James Molinaro has argued that now is not the time to be conducting a marathon when so many others are suffering and precious resources are needed for hurricane relief.

“I just assumed it was canceled,” Molinaro told The Staten Island Advance. “My God. What we have here is terrible, a disaster. If they want to race, let them race with themselves. This is no time for a parade. A marathon is a parade.”

First of all, if you want to know one consequence of allowing foot racing over the last decade+ to be submerged beneath the weight of fund-running, this is one example.  What used to be looked upon as a sporting event has now been publicly transformed into a parade, little different than the Puerto Rican Day Parade, or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But putting that aside for the moment, does anyone really believe that Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have the Big Picture in mind?  You don’t think that he, of all people (moderate, three-term, once republican, now independent billionaire) hasn’t weighed the needs of hurricane relief with the need to get his city back on its economic feet as quickly as possible?  Is it even conceivable that this is a frivolous decision on his part, that he doesn’t have his priorities in order, or understand the allocation of city resources and manpower?

Forget the marathon as a reflection of the city’s resilience argument.  Forget the marathon as a spiritual communion argument or as a remembrance and memorial – aspects of foot racing that wholly differentiate it from a parade.  This decision by Mayor Bloomberg, who is already being touted for higher political office based on his performance to date, comes after assessing the best interests of his city as a whole and an understanding of the assets in hand and the cost-benefit analysis in mind. We are not talking about Ray Nagin, the overwhelmed former New Orleans mayor during Hurricane Katrina.

Emotions are just another of the pent up forces released by a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy.  But that’s why we as a society elect certain types of people to lead us and to make the tough calls.  Those people – generally – have the capacity to see not only the emotion of the moment but the quotidian flow ahead, and to understand the relationship of one to the other.  It’s their job to take emotion out of the equation as much as possible, and make the very difficult decisions that lead us where we need to go.  It’s a quality often referred to as vision. Well, it’s time to let the mayor do his job.  Supporters and naysayers alike can vote on the appropriateness of his vision soon enough. That’s the rhythm and beauty of our democratic system.



  1. Toni: Yes, I just read your most recent post. Thanks, you got it right. What might seem rational in the here and now, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right in the here and now. This is certainly a time when the answer to the question: “is it too soon?” is, most decidedly, “yes.”


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  2. Toni: For the past 24-hours I’ve waited for someone else to reply to your post regarding the marathon…and waited and waited and waited. Then, it dawned on me this AM that perhaps people who might otherwise respond are in NYC already, involved in some fashion or another with the race, and those who aren’t might be, as I am, experiencing such dismay, disgust and sadness over the fact that the marathon is actually going to happen, that they don’t know how to respond. Last night I signed an on-line petition, requesting that the mayor and the NYRR rethink their decision and cancel the race; I urge others to do so.

    Usually I’m in total agreement with you Toni, on all things running and most things non-running as well. Like you, I’ve spent over three decades involved in the sport in one fashion or another; everything from competitive masters runner to race director (Army Ten-Miler for four years); running store manager to long-time writer for Road Race Management. Like you, I’ve seen the good, the magnificent, the bold, the majesty and the beauty of this sport, and I’ve seen the not-so-good, magnificent and beautiful side. Several months ago I decided to step away from the sport and turn my attention to something else. Like you, I’ve grown disillusioned with what’s happening in the sport that I’ve loved with an unbridled passion for years: what I like to refer to as the “Wal-Martization” of running and racing. The decision by the mayor and the NYRR to hold the NYC this weekend, less than seven days after the most devastating storm to ever hit the Northeast destroyed lives, infrastructure, and peoples’ senses of security and safety, has reaffirmed my decision: it was a good one. This sport has become commercialized, “consumerized” and bastardized to such an extent that it bears little resemblance to what it once was.

    Last night my husband and I watched NBC news; perhaps you and Toya watched it, too. Ann Curry interviewed a 62-year old woman who had lived on Staten Island her whole life, and tearfully told Curry that she “…had planned on living there forever.” Then, as the camera panned out to show nothing but rubble where the woman’s house had once stood, she cried even harder and began repeating: “I just want to go home, I just want to go home.”

    Perception is everything. The sight of that woman, a resident of Staten Island, crying over the loss of everything she has ever known and loved juxtaposed with the sight of thousands of runners lining up there to start the run of a “parade”, a moving street party, a footrace, a sure to become media circus what with the TV cameras focusing on places of total destruction throughout the city, is both disgusting and maddening.

    Yes, the NYC Marathon was held after 9/11: two months later. Yes, Mardi Gras did go on after Katrina: Katrina struck in September and Mardi Gras was held in the spring. Those comparisons I’ve seen made are ridiculous in there insinuations: not only is perception often everything, so is timing.

    Holding the race this weekend has nothing to do with the “resiliency of New Yorkers” (a large number of runners aren’t from New York anyway, so how exactly does that show New Yorkers strength?) It’s about, as the mayor said so succinctly: the economy, money. Both the mayor and Wittenberg are still saying that the race will bring in millions of dollars to businesses in the city, but if fewer people are expected to run and if those who live outside the city aren’t able to get in until this weekend (even Meb can’t get a flight in until Saturday evening) there surely isn’t going to be as much money spent for the simple reason that there won’t be as many people to spend it and they won’t have as much time as usual to do so.

    The NYRR have cancellation insurance, they should do the right thing and take advantage of it. They should urge their sponsors to donate money to the mayor’s relief fund, the Red Cross and other organization, and they should ask the registered runners to also do so. But to hold this race, this weekend, in that place is wrong on many many levels. They need to pay attention to the backlash, to the outcry from city officials/government, citizens, the media and yes, runners. Runners who know in their hearts that holding the NYC Marathon this weekend is a mistake.

  3. Great choice from the mayor to move forward with the world wide experience and tour of new york by foot Called New York city marathon since 1970 with no interruptions.Great work New york.

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