The New York City Marathon should be run on Sunday. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard. This is unpopular to say in the hours since New York Road Runners club CEO Mary Wittenberg, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s support, announced the marathon would go on. Anger and outrage have been the prevailing emotions on TV call-in shows, on social media and in media reports on the controversial decision.
Staten Island, home of the marathon’s starting line, is a disaster zone. The south shore has been wrecked, and residents are rightfully scared and angry. In many cases, their basic needs for food and shelter, let alone their pleas for security and recovery efforts, have not all been met. Many residents say the city police and fire departments are nowhere to be found or are not penetrating deep enough into neighborhoods that need help. Borough President James Molinaro has called the American Red Cross a “disgrace.”
Many also say the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been absent from the recovery effort. Rumors of armed robbery by criminals dressed as utility company employees have spread like wildfire online. Yet the NYPD says that, with out-of-state help, it has searched Staten Island for victims and survivors since the storm abated, and would likely complete the search Thursday night. The aid situation seems to be rapidly improving.
Even so, Staten Island congressman James Michael Grimm reminded us, on the day of the marathon announcement, that bodies had been pulled from the water as late as Thursday. Some commenters are suggesting that the marathoners on Sunday simply turn around and run down Father Capodanno Boulevard to provide help to those in need. While that’s a noble sentiment, it’s not one that is likely to help any more than the running of the marathon.
In fact, the marathon generates many millions of dollars for charity and the local economy. According to Wittenberg, the NYRR’s “Race to Recovery” campaign has raised almost $3 million in the day since she affirmed that the race would go on. Wittenberg has also stripped away the marathon’s pomp: The opening ceremony and 5k race are gone. Only the main event will go on.