First things first, The 2nd Annual Get Your Rear in Gear 5k virtual race is this weekend! So pick either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, get a group together and either walk or run 5k. Take a picture and get it to me to be on the results post Sunday night. Give in to peer pressure…Do It!
Next up, I’m going for an 8 mile run this afternoon to break my mileage total from September. October will total 63 miles, a half-mile more than September on 11 fewer runs. My average is creeping back up into the range that it has me thinking crazy things again. For example…
I’m thinking about adding a marathon to the schedule in January. My foot is really turning a corner and I’ve got the itch for 26.2 again. It’ll still be a few weeks before I can make a decision on the possibility of this…but the fact that it’s even a thought is progress by itself.
OK, on to what I really want to write about. This weekend isn’t just my virtual race…it’s also the scheduled date for the New York City Marathon. As most of you know, NYC was pummeled with unprecedented weather earlier this week and is currently in the process of digging out. Power is still out in many areas, people’s lives have been turned upside-down, it’s certainly not what organizers, sponsors, and those registered for the race expected to come into the picture during race week.
I can’t imagine the pressure on the race directors to make a “go or no” decision here. There are so many arguments from both sides that I imagine the race directors decision will be met with no more than 50% approval no matter what (kind of like being a referee, you’re never more than 50% right). Here’s a look at both sides:
Hold the race:
Should the NYRR decide to hold the race as scheduled, it’s been argued that a sense of normalcy returns to New York for the weekend. Proponents of holding the race have sited the positive effects the race had on New York post-9/11 (although is should be noted the marathon was nearly 2 months after 9/11, not within a week). There’s also a huge financial reason to hold the race given that it’s worth millions of out of town dollars coming to NYC. Should the decision to move forward with the marathon come down…it adds the logistical challenge of getting the participants into NYC via limited flights, issues in getting runners to the start line on Staten Island with ferry service and subway service likely to not be operational at that point, and an issue with volunteer and police/fire department course support.
Cancel the race:
The calls to cancel the race are growing in number and center around what’s most vital at this time in NYC. A concern that the race will take away emergency personnel helping with clean up efforts (or remove their needed day of rest for the race) and put strain on resources that could be going elsewhere, like food for the runners that could be re-routed to areas of need, is a major issue. If parts of the city would remain without power and in need of basic supplies, it seems insensitive to hold the race. While those of us that take our marathon hobby as seriously as we do, it’s still a hobby and the dire situation in NYC would feel largely slighted to let hobbyists take from needed resources less than a week after the disaster.
Given that I have two friends registered for the race (and this is marathon #1 for them, a special moment for all of us that have taken up this hobby), I’m torn in my opinion here. I can certainly see the reasons to hold the race. This race is one of the world’s marathon “majors” and is the equivalent of canceling golf’s US Open, tennis’s French Open, a race in NASCAR’s “Chase” Series, or a college football bowl game like the Rose Bowl. I’ve argued in the past that despite Boston’s highly held place amongst marathoners, the press coverage around NYC is actually larger. But at the same point, asking to take critical resources from recovery efforts for a race that over 99% of the field is just there for the experience is asking too much. There are transportation issues without adding 47,000 runners to the city this weekend. Adding strain to the situation seems wrong.
I do not envy the decision on the NYRR. They cannot win in the court of public opinion here. The decision to cancel or go forward will be unpopular either way. If you hold my feet to the fire and ask me to make a decision here…mine is to cancel. These are unprecedented circumstances and, in my view, seems wrong to hold the race. So put yourself in the race director’s shoes…what’s your decision? Leave me some comments.