Can We Postpone the Marathon, Please?


This morning as I sorted through my inbox and made plans for the day, the gchats that kept popping up on my screen were nearly all about the same thing. “Is the city serious with this marathon?” my friends and colleagues are asking.

Turns out, there are a number of marathoners who feel the same way. Gothamist has this post up about Penny Krakoff, a social worker who lives in Crown Heights, who is entered in Sunday’s race and plans to take marathon transportation to Staten Island and then spend the day volunteering.

There are several Facebook groups, Boycott the 2012 NYC Marathon, NYC Marathon of Relief advocating that runners and fans skip the event and volunteer somewhere instead. If you look at the pages for NYC Marathon 2012–Let’s Do This (a runners’ support page) and the ING New York City Marathon’s official Facebook page there are thousands of comments calling for the cancellation of the marathon in favor of redirecting resources elsewhere.

On the ING page, some social media whiz posted this message late last night: We dedicate this race to helping the communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. There are nearly 1300 furious comments telling ING all the ways in which this is a tone deaf, meaningless and insulting sentiment. One gentleman suggests that the runners should forgo water during the race, since there’s no safe supply still for so many people around the city.

The truth is, around 45,000 people run in the marathon each year. They punish their bodies for three, four, five, even six hours on a Sunday. What if instead, they all volunteered? Clearly that would be a logistical problem, but really, think about all those work hours, squandered on a race when people in Sheepshead Bay, the Rockaways, Gerristsen Beach, Red Hook, Lower Manhattan and New Jersey need help.

And what about our emergency support systems? All those cops who have been working 12-hour tours for a week now? Do they really need to work crowd control on Sunday so we can watch people run? You can’t get gas for cars or generators in Brooklyn without waiting in line for an hour or more. Say what you will about biking and fossil fuels, but it’s a lot more efficient to drive clothing, food, water and supplies to Red Hook and South Brooklyn than it is to walk or bike. The marathon shuts the city down for nearly an entire day–people need to refuel, and fuel trucks need to be able to get around, to prepare for the commute on Monday, to deliver supplies, to transport volunteers.

A friend pointed out too, that the end of the marathon is like a triage center because it is, at the end of the day, a very hard thing to make your body do. I just don’t think we should be directing our medical services to the guy who forgot his nipple band-aids right now. With several hospitals out of commission and the blood supply running low, is it really smart to allow, even encourage, thousands of runners to overtax their bodies?

So not to be a curmudgeon, but can we please postpone the marathon?

8 Responses

  1. Kunal Shah -

    If you want to volunteer, absolutely nothing is stopping you. All I’ve seen over the past 3 days is people getting HAMMERED at bars. What about them?

    People need a break from cabin fever and everyone needs to relax as well. This is no different than the Yankees game after 9/11. It makes people feel good and brings them together.

    • hahahoudini -

      It is different, as people aren’t opposed to the recreation involved in the marathon, but the resources it diverts:

      “We’re still pulling bodies out of the water and the mayor is worried about marathon runners and returning to life as normal,” Grimm said in a statement. “The Verrazano Bridge should be used for getting fuel and food in to Staten Island, not getting runners out. Police resources would be best allocated to prevent looting and in rescue and recovery operations.”

      -U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, as reported on

      • Anonymous -

        Only they weren’t still pulling bodies out of the water two days ago. The mayor said they had found all the dead bodies they knew about–although he pointed out that you never really know how many are dead until a while afterward.

  2. BedStuyGuy41 -

    There’s no reason this race can’t go on as planned. It helps get the city back to normalcy and is a huge economic driver for so many businesses – big and small – all around NYC. It’s absurd to think that all the marathon runners should instead volunteer. New Yorker’s can handle this and so far is bouncing back remarkably fast. But New Yorkers are also notorious for be whiny, entitled brats. Just my point of view – we don’t all have to agree.

  3. James Monaghan -

    Participants in last year’s marathon raised over $34 million for a whole range of charities, and that figure will be surpassed this year. It is totally inappropriate to vilify the charitable runners for “not volunteering” – they did their part long before trouble came to their own back yard, which is more than can be said for many people writing long vitriolic blog posts.

  4. DParkBK -

    The marathon is an easy target for people who feel angst about the hurricane; I don’t think that means the race should be cancelled. The logic doesn’t follow. More cops in Staten Island doesn’t mean shorter lines for gasoline. Not employing the medics (who are often medical students) at the marathon finish line will not bring additional health to Staten Island residents.

    No one is taking a defiant stand and demanding that city residents stay home from the movies or sporting events in the wake of the hurricane. Should the city’s green markets be closed? The food — which is healthier and more useful than marathon energy gels– could be used for those on Staten Island and in the Rockaways.

    Lastly, the NYPD officers assigned to the race are likely being paid their overtime rate. And the marathon is one of the easier assignments (crowd control) of the year. And for the first time, this cost of providing officers is being footed by New York Road Runners — not city tax payers. This fact caused a furor when the NYRR raised the race price this year. The bottom line is that NYPD officers –many of whom live in the Rockaways, Breezy Point, and Staten Island — are collecting needed money that is from the City’s coffers.

    Does the author of the post plan on volunteering with the relief efforts early Sunday morning?

    • Anonymous -

      I totally agree, although it’s a moot point now. But a lot of marathon runners did volunteer in Staten Island this morning. As a former Floridian who has seen a lot of hurricane aftermaths, I think it would foolish to turn away the money and morale the marathon SHOULD have generated.


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