It was the right decision, but made at the wrong time.

So slightly over 24 hours ago, the ING NYC Marathon was cancelled.

The decision that should have been made Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning at the latest – the decision that Mary Wittenberg should have shown true leadership and made early in the week but instead deferred to let Bloomberg make the decision was made.

And every time NYRR says anything, it’s variations on a theme – and almost always blaming anyone BUT themselves for the whole mess of decision making.

At first, they tried to sound altruistic – things along the lines of “people are still suffering too much”. And then there were shades of blaming the public outrage – things along the line of “concern for the safety of our runners”. And the latest was the email sent to NYRR members (I guess I haven’t been dropped from the mailing list yet) that said this:

“The decision was made after it became increasingly apparent that the people of our city and the surrounding tri-state area were still struggling to recover from the damage wrought by the recent extreme weather conditions. That struggle, fueled by the resulting extensive and growing media coverage antagonistic to the marathon and its participants, created conditions that raised concern for the safety of both those working to produce the event and its participants. While holding the race would not have required diverting resources from the recovery effort, it became clear that the apparent widespread perception to the contrary had become the source of controversy and division. Neither NYRR nor the City could allow a controversy over the marathon to result in a dangerous situation or to distract attention from all the critically important work that is being done to help New York City recover from the storm.”

Which sort of combines them all and adds the “blame the media” aspect into the mix.

The media who reported the truth – that displaced families who had lost everything were being kicked out of their hotel rooms for people coming in to run the marathon. Yes, that happens if people decide to overstay their reservations made in advance. But these are people – often families with children who have no where to go, who have lost everything…and the temperatures are dropping daily. And reporting on generators being held for powering the finish area, etc. as reported in the New York Post yesterday. I’m not a fan of the Post as a rule, but in this case, they had every right to publish what they found.

And for even more sobering statistics, check out these numbers revealed in the Huffington Post this morning:

“But after the storm, people started doing the math: 93,600 bottles of water; 30,000 energy bars; 40,000 cups of coffee, 1,700 portable toilets. That was on list of resources slated for the Staten Island start line alone, according to New York Road Runners, the organization that operates the marathon. In years past, the marathon has also included 6,000 volunteers, some of whom are medically trained.”


I know there are people who don’t believe I’m a “real runner” but I assure you I am. And I understand what it is to train for an event, to dedicate hours and hours weekly to work towards the goal of a marathon. If a hurricane or other disaster had hit Orlando, FL last year or Chicago this October forcing the cancellation of those marathons, yes, I would have been disappointed, terribly disappointed. But I honestly believe that I would understand that there were circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

No it’s not pleasant. But compared to what people who have lost everything – even lives (I believe the latest count is 42 deaths directly attributed to Sandy) – in Sandy are going through, the fact that a race isn’t being run is minor.

BUT I agree with everyone 100% that the decision should have been made earlier in the week before people got into town. When reservations still could have been cancelled (to my knowledge all typical cancellation fees were being waived at hotels) or changed as all airlines were waiving fees – though the time which the flight would need to be rescheduled fee-free did vary from airline to airline.

Wittenberg’s first mistake was not taking a stand earlier in the week, not being a leader. The second mistake was at the last minute deciding to cancel.

Truly no one wins in this situation. People who came to run with the understanding that in spite of anything the race was going on have a right to be upset. Just as New Yorkers had the right to be upset earlier in the week when it wasn’t cancelled and stats like those published in the Huffington Post can be found by doing a little poking around.

Thankfully most people I have encountered – both last night at the Disney Store where I work part-time and today at the race Expo (where many of the vendors were donating 100% of their proceeds to Sandy relief efforts) have been understandably disappointed but understanding.

Runners are organizing to help on Staten Island. Reading over the Facebook page it’s truly heartwarming.

I can’t do that tomorrow, but I am doing what I can. I’ve donated to the Red Cross. At the Front Runners New York Pancake Breakfast, I donated food and money to both of our drives. And Monday I’ll be donating platelets. We all do what we can to help.

Runners truly are some of the best people around who truly want to do what’s best.

The NYC Marathon, like Breezy Point, Staten Island, and all areas affected by Sandy, will rise again. And I wish it and all who run it only the best.

I’ll see you next year at Mile 24.


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