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?


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14 Responses to NYC Marathon-some musings

  1. Lauren says:

    Hey Sam, I know it’s disappointing from a training standpoint and hope you have your marathon time in Philly. You know my thoughts on this. I don’t think if you’re here/watching the footage and aware of the devastation that “the city knows best” seems valid. We each know best. What runners took as personal attacks I think others were saying, look- the marathon starts on SI where gas lines will be displaced by marathon buses all gassed up. Don’t you know better? The cops are exhausted (on my FB page someone said their cop neighbors haven’t been home all week), should they be on 1st ave making sure people don’t jump into the race? I know stand by mean or nasty but I get the outrage. It wasn’t personal it was toward participating in something optional and large scale when there is so much going on. Thanks for reaching out to me with your thoughts, I can see the other side. As a runner, I’ve had races that didn’t happen I had trained for. In a way, my first marathon ruined by a snowstorm taught me that it was just a race even though it seemed so, so meaningful to me at the time. It also taught me that the real work is training. You’ve done the hard stuff, you’ve showed yourself you can do it. Be proud.
    Lauren recently posted..Post Sandy Mexican HalloweenMy Profile

    • Sam says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lauren. I do admit that we, or at least I was naive in assuming that if the city said that it was okay then it was okay. Comments like yours were still respectful. But people became downright evil and I disagree, the kind of comments that came up and the attacks I saw on Twitter, I am sorry but it did become personal.

  2. Sam,
    you will be more than ready when they reschedule!

    This was the right thing to do.

    Keep safe & well. X

  3. Ameena says:

    So sad that such a great event became the point of such controversy. I am so sorry for all parties involved, especially the victims of Sandy. I agree with Lauren…the training is really the biggest accomplishment.

    Would love to see you during Thanksgiving if you are around? We will be in town!

    • Sam says:

      It’s quite sad at what a debacle it became but hopefully all the subsequent help the runners have provided to the stricken areas will overshadow the negatives.

      I am definitely around and would love to see you!

  4. mary says:

    As a NYC resident, and a fellow runner who just trained for last 4 months, I can honestly say that I see both sides of this dilemma. The sadness and tragedy that went on this past week was incomprehensible. I do hope the media covers the good deeds that the runners did across the boroughs today to help out those in need!

  5. AB says:

    Hi Sam,

    I’m sorry you didn’t get to run; I’m not a runner, and in fact, usually stay away from the marathon and it’s vast route like the plague. However, I am an active person, a former athlete, so I get it. Training is like a job, and if you were mentally and physically ready for a moment in time, that moment is important. It may never come again.
    Although I, like others, see both sides to the argument, I wanted to comment on the ugliness I’ve seen similar to what you have, and share that it’s not just the contempt for the marathon. Harsh (and often vile) sentiments have been circulated about the Brooklyn Nets and the NY Knicks, who hosted games over the last week. I saw ugly social media posts condemning anyone who would attend the Giants game on Sunday. I heard rude and crass coffee-shop talk about Jimmy Kimmel and Saturday Night Live tapings that went on a few days ago. On a baser level, I’ve seen fist fights over gas at neighborhood stations.
    It seems as if the “Have vs Have-Nots” divide has been exposed and magnified to the point where moving on with one’s life may become harmful. I’ve commented to many friends that I feel a bit as if we’re in a Mad Max movie; New York has become a sort of Thunderdome, where it’s survival of the fittest.
    I understand safety and respect just like the next person; I personally do not think the marathon’s route was appropriate to run, neither for the participants, spectators or those affected by Hurricane Sandy. But I do know that the race is a symbol of pride for the city; runners come from the world over to participate and spend money here; and several organizations are the beneficiary of money raised through the event. Everyone involved is a victim of poor strategic planning by the city and event planners: shame on them for not having a contingency plan “just in case” anything major happened. As a Californian transplant, I can tell you, people here do not think like that. New Yorkers think they’re invincible. Until threatened by the thought of someone else doing something they can’t. Here’s to hoping we all CAN learn from this, similar to lessons learned after 9/11. Exuding simple kindness and a nonjudgemental attitude would be a great starting place.
    Sorry for the long length, but as I just got home from a 6-hour overnight wait for gas, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. Now, I’m going to bed.
    Be well, and good luck in your next marathon!

    • Sam says:

      Thanks so much for such a thoughtful and well-written response. I was wondering about the reactions to the other major sporting events. I don’t follow them and so I hadn’t heard. But it makese sense. Thunderdome is an apt description! I am so sorry about your wait for gas. I am amazed at how long it has taken/is taking the utilities department to get back on their feet. I have lived in a third world country where this happens all the time and even then, it did not take this long to get up and running. There should have been a better contingency plan over here. But here’s hoping for a future where we can say we learned from all of this. Thanks again for commenting!

  6. NYC Fit GIrl says:

    Sam I can understand both sides too. I was so confused as a NYC resident and growing up at the Jersey Shore. I wanted the city to move on but I felt pain for those suffering. I volunteered at the Expo on Saturday and people where so grateful they we still volunteered. Also runners from all over the world just wanted to help. It didn’t matter to them they just wanted to help! Truly was an amazing experience.

    • Sam says:

      The runners have been amazing after this unfortunate sitatuion and I truly hope that this is how they will be remembered in the aftermath. Thanks for your comment!

  7. I’m glad they cancelled it but I feel that they should have done it so much earlier, NYRR really let things get out of hand. And it made the community sort of blame the runners in a way, which should never happen!
    Megan@ Run Like a Grl recently posted..Fundraiser for Staten Island Hurricane Sandy Recovery + Giveaway!My Profile

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