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Teresa Robinson's NH Runner: Too soon for NYC Marathon

November 03. 2012 11:27PM

Like many, I've been drawn to the images of Hurricane Sandy's devastation, particularly in New York. The stories from Staten Island are heart-breaking. Neighborhoods on fire. Little boys swept out of their mother's arms in flood waters. People literally begging for food.

Those aren't quite the images you'd expect to see near the starting line of one of the world's most prestigious marathons.

But that's exactly what would have happened this morning had Mayor Michael Bloomberg not made the decision to cancel this year's New York City Marathon.

After saying for days that the race would step off as scheduled (shortly after Manchester's own marathon), Bloomberg announced late Friday afternoon that the New York race would not take place after all.

I'll be among a couple of thousand people who line up at the start of the Manchester Marathon, Half Marathon & Relay. I welcome all those people who had registered for the New York City Marathon but will be running among us rather than further straining New York City resources. I hope they get to enjoy some Granite State hospitality instead of battling hurricane victims for coveted metropolitan-area hotel rooms.

As I watched the coverage of the impending storm, one of my first thoughts was about the New York marathon. The next morning, seeing the images of flooded streets and devastated neighborhoods, I thought surely there would be an announcement that the race had been postponed or canceled.

If you've ever been to a marathon in a large city - and New York is the largest, with more than 40,000 registered runners chosen from a field of 100,000 applicants - you know it ties up transportation and other resources. And that might be putting it mildly. Heck, even today's Manchester event will be an inconvenience to residents otherwise not interested in the race, as it closes the city's main road and reroutes traffic in several busy areas.

Even more important, big city marathons, such as New York's, need hundreds of police, fire and medical personnel. (Do I need to point out that those people probably have other priorities right now?) City marathons need functioning public transportation. City marathons need city support - and not just from elected officials. They need the support of the neighborhoods on the routes and, in general, they city's.

That couldn't have happened in the Big Apple today.

Before Friday's announcement, one of the reasons Bloomberg and race organizers cited for pushing on with the New York City Marathon was the economic boost the race brings to the city. But I think the idea of using the marathon as a metaphor for the strength of New Yorkers was almost as alluring to those making the decision to continue on.

Listen, I love a good comeback story. I love when runners are part of that story. I respect the New York City Marathon, the training its runners invest in it and the prestige that comes with finishing the race. I would love the marathon to be a symbol of perseverance and fortitude.

But it's just too soon.

Even if, as Bloomberg and the host New York Road Runners club had insisted before the decision to cancel, the marathon route were relatively unaffected by the storm, going ahead with the marathon today would have sent the wrong message. Can't you just see the thousands of half-full cups of water strewn in the street as families beg for help nearby?

It's unfortunate and sad that the New York City Marathon won't take place today, but what's happened to the victims of Sandy goes far beyond unfortunate and sad. Cancelling the race was the right thing to do.

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Teresa Robinson's NH Runner column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. She can be reached at Twitter: @teresakrobinson.

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