I want you to think about four hours.
If you were to run a four hour marathon you’d be considered a middle of the pack runner.
If you were to drive four hours west on the Thruway, south down Route 87 you would we faced with the very depths of human misery.
I want to discuss the ING New York City Marathon which is scheduled to be run this Sunday (November 4th).
Let me be straight; there is no way I would like to be in Mary Wittenberg’s shoes; Mary is the CEO of the New York Road Runners that put on the marathon.
The decision to run the race after the recent devastation of Hurricane Sandy has certainly fomented a great deal of controversy. Let me be straight- I’m not coming down either way about running the race; the factors are incredibly complex and I have no idea of the ‘internals’ of the race. The whole thing feels like a Solomon’s choice.
Saying that, here’s what seems to be ‘the big rocks’ on either side of the argument.
Why not to have the race this year?
There is no doubt that there is a strain on the New York City public safety/ service group to support a race that travels through the five boroughs of New York. Race officials will now be using the services of private contractors to minimize the service of the NYPD.
The ability for the transportation system to support the movement of the runners to the start on Staten Island and from the post race located in Central Park seems Herculean. In fact the whole infrastructure seems pretty beat up.
At this point people in the area are cold, hungry, out of gas, and without electricity. The police are still in a body recovery mode. The race is perceived by many as a frivolous distraction. Should assets such as food and water be used for needy citizens rather than the runners?
Why to have the race this year?
This race provides a huge economic boost to The Big Apple; twenty thousand of this year’s field comes from outside the U.S.. It’s about the hotels, airlines, restaurants, and stores- thousands of employees benefit from the running of the race.
There is the ‘we can do this’ pride that New York City is famous for; we certainly saw it after 9/11.
Is it a good thing, for at least a few hours, to focus on something positive?
The New York City Road Runners have pledged one million dollars to the Mayor’s Fund and the American Red Cross and ING, the presenting sponsor, is donating an extra five hundred thousand dollars. I have no doubt that others, both individuals and companies aligned with the race will jump on this effort. Perhaps those from outside the New York City area who run the race and see the devastation will become the ambassadors to help the city? Maybe a grass-roots volunteer effort comprised of this year’s runners will happen- how great would that be!
To those running on Sunday- Godspeed.
To those who are in the suffering midst of this tragedy- God watch over you.
To those helping your neighbors and people you don’t even know- God bless you!