Faced with last-minute contingencies, as well as growing complaints from inside and outside the running community that the race would divert people and resources away from Hurricane Sandy recovery, organizers nevertheless insisted they would not pull the plug on Sunday’s 42nd New York City Marathon.
Plenty of elements for the 26-mile, 385-yard run through the five boroughs remained “fluid,” according to a race spokesperson, including whether city police will receive private security help and how runners will be transported to the starting line on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge.
Ferry service, employed heavily for that purpose in recent years, was an iffy option, with extra buses to be called in, though Thursday night, ferries were said to be available.
The difficulties in reaching Manhattan from the suburbs, especially Long Island and New Jersey, caused thousands of runners to ponder their ability to pick up their racing credentials before Sunday morning’s start, a problem officials were considering.
Still, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave the official go-ahead for the race Wednesday, said Thursday that the marathon “is not going to redirect any focus” on post-hurricane priorities. He said firefighters and sanitation workers, occupied with aid to storm victims, will not be used for the marathon.
“Keep in mind,” Bloomberg said, “by Sunday we’ll have electricity back downtown. That will free up an enormous number of police. Also, a lot of the transportation needs that we have during the week aren’t there on the weekends. This city is a city where we have to go on.”
Race director Mary Wittenberg, while making it clear that Bloomberg had the final decision on holding the event, said race organizers are concentrating on using the marathon as “a day that is about the triumph of the human spirit.”
Earlier Thursday, organizers announced the cancellation of all pre-marathon festivities, including Saturday’s 5-kilometer run for marathoners’ family and friends and Friday night’s opening ceremonies. Organizers also told runners there will be “substantial modifications to the logistics and operations of the race.” But there will be no change in the race course itself.
The race has a potential field of 40,000 runners (though organizers now expect a significantly smaller number), 2.5 million spectators and 8,000 volunteers and requires almost 40 medical aid stations and 8,000 volunteers.
To hold the race six days after Sandy was called “idiotic” by Staten Island’s Republican city councilman, James Oddo. Other politicians backed Oddo’s criticism, including City councilwoman Deborah Rose and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats.
Several runners also voiced their displeasure that the marathon hasn’t been canceled. Thursday night, race officials announced the creation of a fund to aid Sandy’s victims and will donate $1 million. Sponsors pledged another $1.5 million. ___
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