My city was devastated by one of the worst natural disasters in its recent history. Thankfully, my neighborhood was unaffected but a lot of friends have just recently had power return to their homes, and are still without water or gas. Residents in Staten Island, the Rockaways and parts of New Jersey have fared even worse, where homes have been destroyed, cars have washed away, and basic supplies are dwindling. Which brings me to the New York City Marathon, that was scheduled for Sunday, November 4th, less than a week later. I was torn about my decision to run. It took me four years to get into this race. I had spent the past four months adjusting school, work and childcare in order to train. Deferring to next year may not be an option for me. But all that paled in comparison to what people were/are going through and so I was prepared for the marathon to be cancelled.
On Wednesday the mayor said that the marathon will go on. Rumblings of dissent began. On Thursday he repeated that the marathon will go on. The rumblings started to get louder. On Friday he reiterated that yes, it will continue. By this point the rumblings had crescendo-ed to an all-time high. Heated discussions turned into talk of tripping and hurting the runners. I was astounded.
It was the city’s responsibility to make the decision on whether the marathon was feasible or not and mayor Bloomberg’s repeated assertions convinced most of us that it would be okay. That is why I decided to run. That is why most runners were on board. Cancelling it would have been fine. I have not met a single runner who doesn’t get why it was cancelled. We get it and most, if not all, of us support it.
What we don’t get is how this turned into a vilification of the runners. Facebook and Twitter were rampant with negativity. I should have stayed off but I was transfixed.
A “Cancel the Marathon” Facebook page garnered something like 30,000 likes in a relatively short span of time, with some comments that I don’t even want to mention.
“Go run in our blood,” someone tweeted.
“You, the runners have a responsibility. Why don’t you volunteer instead of running,” someone commented.
As if the two were mutually exclusive. Plenty of us are volunteering, but I am not here to defend that. The judgement that people were placing on the runners blew my mind.
Wanting the marathon to be cancelled is perfectly reasonable. Judging and name-calling the runners? Not excusable.
By the time the decision to cancel was made I was emotionally drained but relieved. I did not want to run it anymore. The NYC marathon with its course along each of the five boroughs is about communities coming together and it was clear that this year was going to be different. This was not the right time to have this race and so I do believe the right decision was made. I only wish the decision had been made sooner so that international runners could have changed flight schedules.
I will admit that I am disappointed but I realize that in the grand scheme of things this is insignificant. There will be other races. There will be other marathons. Let’s work on getting our city back in business and let’s all please be friends again?