From the Marathon
So this is a bit late in coming, but, well, there’s been lots of stuff going on.
If you’ve been following along you know that I was preparing to run the NYC Marathon this fall. You probably also know that the Marathon was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, a sprawling weather system that flooded much of New York’s transit system, caused fires in a few locations in Queens, and knocked out power in lower Manhattan and Staten Island.
I imagine there was quite a debate behind mayoral doors about the marathon; I know there were lots of quiet discussions between would-be marathoners and their friends regarding the situation.
In one corner, people said that it would be unethical to contribute generators and police power to the marathon when there were so many other people in need, and that Bloomberg wanted to hold the event because he was all about the money it would bring in.
In the other corner, pro-marathoners pointed out that many of those generators would be paid for by the media covering the event and would hardly be trucked out to the people who needed the power if they weren’t in Central Park, that looting was not a problem and that the police would be using an “off the shelf” plan that would not take away officers from areas in need. As far as money, the reality is that the marathon dollars would have been quite useful for many of the people affected by the storm; it would have circulated in the local economy and not Bloomberg’s pockets (he made his personal fortune by providing financial information, not selling hotel rooms).
But none of that really mattered. What did matter were the so-called optics of the situation. It seemed a bit cold hearted to hold an athletic event when people were going through such hardship, and I was surprised when Bloomberg announced that the marathon would go on. I wasn’t too surprised when Queens and Staten Island residents gave him such heat that he canceled the event.
In retrospect I think he never expected to hold the marathon. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t, so he decided to spend a little credibility in order to guard himself himself against major criticism from either camp. The collateral damage: everyone who forewent the option to change their plane tickets and hotel reservations so they could come to NYC only to find out that the event was canceled. A better option would have been to lean on NYC Road Runner’s to make participation optional; people could have changed their plane tickets, given their hotel reservations to people in need without losing the money they’d already sunk into running the event.
Anyway, the cancelation left me with a body that was more or less in shape to run 26.2 miles and no official event to take part in. So I did what many other people did and headed to Central Park, the site of the original NYC Marathon.
The good parts: It’s easy to measure: four loops and you’re at 24.2 miles already. Many people came to cheer us on anyway and hand out food/Gatorade/fruit (I didn’t feel as though I was taking foodstuffs away from people in need because it wasn’t as though the oranges and bananas I ate would have gotten to Staten Island anyway). The bad part: the hills in Harlem are murder on your knees, and I was battling plantar fasciitis to begin with. I made it about two loops at a good pace (for me) before my feet/knees started to hurt and I had to slow down. The big bummer is that my knees hurt more going downhill than they do going up, so I had to walk down the hills and run on the way up. Ouch.
I did get through it and finished at about 5 hours and 45 minutes (45 minutes off of my goal time). Unfortunately my iPod’s fitness timer got reset in the middle of the run so I didn’t have an exact time; moreover I wasn’t 100% sure of the exact distance, though I overshot to make sure that I had at least 26.2. All things considered I wasn’t really put out at all by the cancelation. Of course I’d rather Sandy not have come along, but the fact that it is not logged in an official record book doesn’t take away from the fact that I actually did it. What’s more I don’t have any lingering doubts about the ethics of running when so many people had lost their homes and livelihoods. It was a great experience, and now I just need to worry about getting an automatic entry for next year’s event.