November 2, 2012

New York City Marathon: Canceled

I wrote about the New York City Marathon on Wednesday, when I was disappointed with the NYRR’s and the city’s decision to continue with the race. However, since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the current situation across the city – and now, I am actively hoping they make the last-minute decision to cancel it.

I kind of can’t believe I just wrote that. Canceling the marathon at this time would be even more difficult than had they canceled it outright. Since flights have resumed at some airports, many foreign runners have now traveled to New York, and you can’t undo that. However, that’s actually a big part of the problem.

Much of the rationale I’ve heard for proceeding with the marathon has been the economic impact. Last year, visiting runners brought in nearly $350 million in revenue – which is a great boost to our city’s finances. What I didn’t realize on Tuesday, though, was just how packed our city already is. Trying to go to a restaurant is a 45 minute wait, even at off-hours, because there are just so many people and so few places to eat. (Not that I’m complaining about the wait, when so many people are hungry; I was just surprised by it.) On the housing front, people are crowded into any hotel that still has power/water. Generally speaking, every business that is able to open is already packed with displaced locals. Bringing in visitors wouldn’t generate additional revenue; it would only trade off who is providing that revenue.

Furthermore, the start of the race is at one of the centers of the devastation. On Staten Island, thousands of families don’t have water, power, food, or homes. FEMA is on site trying to help – and yet the NYRR is sending crews of volunteers there to set up heated tents for marathoners to wait for the start of the race? Reports indicate that each one of the four power generators that the NYRR is using to run the start clocks could power 400 homes. It seems pretty tasteless to bring the generators, the tents, and Dunkin Donuts coffee in to an area where people are desperate for those very things.

While I think the call for NYRR/the city is an obvious one, I think it gets a lot more gray when it comes to running it. So many of my friends are planning to run, but now they’re wondering if they should even be thinking about such things. I don’t know what I would do if I were in their shoes, and for that reason, I’m supportive of my friends either way. I’m undecided whether I feel comfortable going out and cheering for the runners, as a cheer for them almost feels like a cheer for the awful decision to keep the race going.

I hate that there are people in the outer boroughs and New Jersey whose recovery is being delayed so that we can clear superficial areas like the trees in Central Park. I hate that they don’t have water but we’re providing thousands of gallons to runners who are going to throw cups on the ground after taking just a sip. And I hate that thousands of civic workers and police are going to be blocking streets that are already gridlocked due to a non-functional mass transit system.


And at that point in writing this post, the word came through: the marathon is canceled.

I spent the last hour reading Twitter and watching all the press conferences. My heart goes out to everyone who was planning to run and is so disappointed at the last minute. I think that the NYRR and the City of New York made a horrible mistake in not canceling the marathon sooner. While I’m so glad that they corrected their mistake and made the right call in the end, it’s come at a much higher cost to all the runners.

I’m not quite sure what to say. Of course your grief at not being able to run a marathon is trivial compared to the grief of those who have lost their homes (and more), but that doesn’t mean you’re not sad. Since I don’t have a horse in the race, I feel kind of trite going out to comfort my friends, but I want to be supportive and show them I care.

The only thing I really can offer? Some alternate upcoming races that people may be able to run.

-The City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, NC, is still open for entrants for their marathon on Sunday. I looked into flights from NYC to Raleigh, leaving Saturday and returning Sunday, and they are only $198 roundtrip. Talk to local runner Pat for logistical coordination; he has made an amazing offer to help.

-The Richmond Marathon is being held next Saturday in Richmond, VA, and is also open for entrants. Flights there are a bit pricier from NYC, but it’s also somewhat drivable – 6 hours. For what it’s worth, I PRed in the the half here last year and found it to be a really nice course.

-The Fort Worth Marathon being held next Sunday in Fort Worth, TX, is also open for entrants. I am running this one and am happy to share my hotel room with anyone who can make it there. Flights start at $328 roundtrip.

And of course, check out for many, many more options. If I can help anyone with choosing a new race or tweaking an existing training plan for another date, please let me know!


6 thoughts on “New York City Marathon: Canceled”

  1. I think it probably was a good idea to cancel, but what now? (Reading your blog was the first that I knew it was cancelled, don’t listen to the news much). Will they refund the entry fees (or give the entry for next year? If they do, I am sure they have already spent a lot of money in preparation. But if I was running and I didn’t get a refund, I would be upset.

  2. The BCS (Bryan/College Station, Tx) marathon on december 9th is still open and is offering discounted ($25) registration to anyone who was registered for the 2012 NYC marathon.

  3. Thanks, Erica!

    Marlin: I think they are allowing guaranteed entry to next year, but no refund since the money is already spent. I can definitely see being upset about that, but I know that’s the policy most marathons have taken when weather/other issues prevent having a race (e.g., Nashville, Charleston, Chicago).

  4. There is a difference between what the fine print says and public perception / pr control.

    I have also seen what there financial status is, and they aren’t hurting for a non-profit (not that I have a problem with them making money, I don’t, but they aren’t hurting. They have around 60,000 entry’s year at an average of $235/EA (members $216, other US residents $255, international $347) that’s $14,100,000. I realize that some of that money has been spent, but not all since the haven’t had to for some of the race day cost, plus some of the supplies could be used next year. I also don’t think the argument could be made that it was cancelled due to weather, it wasn’t, it was cancelled due to public perception from the way it sounds.

  5. A big part of the problem with reusing stuff may be storage. (I have no idea, but hypothesizing here.) In NYC, space is incredibly expensive, so there may be no room to store Gatorade, signs, etc. Plus, a lot of signage/shirts/etc is probably customized for 2012. I think the only areas they might save would be paying staff, but perhaps they would pay them anyway just as businesses sometimes paid employees who couldn’t work because Sandy wasn’t their fault? Again, no real idea, just guessing here.

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