The controversy over the ING New York City Marathon—first the city's decision to hold it in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and then the Mayor's decision to cancel the race after intense backlash—has transformed into a heartfelt relief effort.
Runners, who came from all corners of the world, are showing their love for New York by organizing into teams and helping out victims ravaged by the storm. They might not be setting PRs today, but these runners are showing their true spirit at a time when it is truly needed.
About a thousand marathoners headed to Staten Island, one of the hardest hit areas, this morning to help with relief efforts, while thousands of others set off to Central Park to run a marathon and raise money for relief efforts. (Four loops of the park is 26.2 miles - the original course for the NYC Marathon)
New York Runners In Support of Staten Island organized marathon entrants to mobilize at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan this morning. Their message, "Now that the NYC marathon is cancelled, let’s put these legs and healthy spirit to good use!"
Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. - residence from all over Staten Island come together to help people in need.. © 2012(Credit Image: © Bruce Cotler/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
The race was scheduled to start in Staten Island, where half the city’s 41 fatalities occurred, including the deaths of two young boys swept from the arms of their mother. Residents were understandably outraged that the Mayor was willing to pull scarce city resources to help the more than 40,000 runners make their way 26.2 miles through the city's five boroughs as victims still struggled to with the most basic services.
Instead, runners carried backpacks filled with things like baby wipes, energy bars, prepaid phones, batteries and other emergency supplies to Staten Island residents in need. They met early this morning at the SI ferry terminal ready to help out in any way possible.
Across the country, other grassroots efforts have sprung up as well. Run4NYC is a virtual marathon, half-marathon and 5K for those hit hardest by the hurricane. Runners choose their distance, decide on a donation amount, and lace up to race Nov 4 through Nov 11. Participants are encouraged to run loops around their neighborhood, through their city… anywhere they please with 100% of all money collected going to the American National Red Cross relief fund. Follow the hashtag #run4nyc to see who's participating.
Even runners who arrived in New York this week, many angry at the Mayor for luring them to the city under what they considered false pretenses, were able to put the situation in perspective.
Jack Waitz, widower of beloved NYC Marathon champion Grete Waitz, told the Daily News he had come from Norway, "We all understand why they canceled and we will be back and even better next year, but it is still very important to run today. We all paid substantial money to be here, and we raised money."
There will be another New York City Marathon, and this year's entrants get an automatic slot in next year's race. Let's just hope there's not another hurricane like Sandy.
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