Much like New Yorkers, marathon runners understand stamina.
Just one week after superstorm Sandy created a path of destruction and death across the east coast of the U.S. and Canada, casting thousands into the dark, flooding the subway system, shuttering storefronts and cutting short food and fuel supplies, the ING New York City Marathon will run as scheduled on Sunday, Nov. 4. And at least three Vancouverites will participate.
“New York has that reputation of being able to pull together in these times of crises,” said Linda Wong, a Vancouver long-distance runner and sports event manager who will run the NYC Marathon for the first time Sunday. She committed to travelling to New York on Tuesday night before race directors confirmed the marathon would continue.
“As tired and stressed as everybody is going to be, it will be a great thing for the city to come together and boost their morale. I want to feel like I’m a part of that.”
Wong, 36, intends to help with the recovery and clean up if possible.
That same desire to help was expressed by Charlotte Henriksson Abrary, who will mark the NYC Marathon as her first-ever long-distance run. “If I can do something while I’m there, I will be so happy to do something.”
Abrary, a member of the Lions Gate Road Runners who will mark her 49th year by running the famed marathon, said the economic benefit of the race is vital to the city’s recovery. “New Yorkers are so resilient,” she said.
“Just by going to New York, in a way, we are actually supporting New York. If we don’t go, they lose money. It’s the safety of the people there that has to be a priority, but by coming, we’re supporting the economy. There will be a lot of people who cancelled their trip.”
An estimated $340 million U.S. is generated by the annual event, which is the largest marathon on the planet with streets typically swelling with 50,000 racers.
The 26.2-mile point-to-point racecourse meanders through five boroughs, crosses four bridges and takes racers from the start line in Staten Island to the finish in Central Park. The marathon will avoid the most damaged areas of the city, but participants rely on public transit, notably the subway and ferry lines, to reach the starting point. By Wednesday afternoon, the subway system in Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and to Staten Island were still closed.
Race directors officially confirmed Thursday morning the race would continue as planned.
One U.S. news network morning show ran with this provocative headline: “Inspiring or insensitive?”
CBS asked, “Scheduled to go on, but should it be?”
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg dismissed the controversy over the decision to go ahead with the race. “There’s a lot of people that have come here,” ESPN reported him saying at a press conference Wednesday. “It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you’ve got to go believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.”
Runner Julie Bertrand was travelling to New York with a group of six from Vancouver, but two racers decided not to travel, pulled out of the marathon and deferred their race entry. Complicating Bertrand’s trip is the fact they were renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel.
“The people whose apartment we were renting, they were supposed to be leaving on vacation, [but] their travel plans were altered,” she said Tuesday evening. Because of Sandy and thousands of cancelled flights out of New York’s three airports, “they were stranded.”
Bertrand, 27, said the marathon could bring levity and cheer to the city as residents recover from the storm and run a race against a backdrop of destruction.
“It’ll be something to celebrate. I think it’ll be really special.”