With New York City fully immersed in Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, and thousands of residents still without power and mass transit only partially restored, the city canceled its scheduled marathon on Sunday, the New York Times reports.
The marathon has been held every year since 1970, even in the wake of 9/11. As of Thursday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg never wavered in his decision to continue with the marathon, even though other elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and some runners called for it to be postponed or canceled. "This city is a city where we have to go on," the mayor said at a press conference Thursday.
But on Friday, Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, the director of the marathon, released a joint statement addressing the need to cancel the marathon. "The Marathon has been an integral part of New York City's life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch. While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division. The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination. We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event — even one as meaningful as this — to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."
The race was meant to start in Staten Island, the borough that was hit hardest by the storm and where several residents were killed or stranded after their homes were washed away. A Facebook group started by one resident advocating the cancellation of the race had amassed more than 50,000 "Likes" as of Friday evening.
About 40,000 runners were set to participate Sunday, which is 15 percent less than originally thought, according to the New York Times. New York Road Runners had said that going forward with the marathon would raise both funds and spirits for the relief efforts. Wittenberg, who is also the NYRR chief executive, said the organization would donate $1 million, as well as other supplies, to the recovery, and other race sponsors had also pledged to donate more than $1 million, according to the Times.