If you had asked me ten days ago, I'd have told you that I'd spend "Marathon Sunday" cheering for my friends and teammates, and then walk home to compile the results for the annual congratulatory blog post and tell you how proud I was of our runners. Hurricane Sandy changed just about everything - the city was (and remains) devastated, the race was cancelled, and the city was divided (and in many cases angry). But one thing didn't change; I remain proud to be part of a wonderful community of athletes. I was on record saying that I felt that the City and NYRR should cancel the Marathon. Some friends and other people whose opinion I respect disagreed with me. They are still my friends and I still respect their opinion - we just didn't see eye-to-eye on this matter. Ironically, the people who angered me the most were not those who said that the show must go on, but rather those who agreed with me that the race should be cancelled, but who chose to direct their frustration at the runners rather than (or in addition to) Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg. Runners were being vilified for no reason other than their desire to run.
Here's an example of misplaced anger, written by none other than former New Yorker, Chris Rock, who presumably wrote this from his estate in the affluent town of Alpine, NJ, and was seen volunteering exactly nowhere this weekend.
Similar opinions - some others threatening violence, some simply voicing anger - were all over social media, TV, radio and the local papers. Runners were made to be the scapegoats and the objects of threats, despite the fact that Mayor Bloomberg was the one who made the decision.
Certainly, many marathoners were emotional when the race was cancelled. They had spent months training, and in many cases thousands of dollars getting here. Still, most whom I spoke to voiced some combination of relief and disappointment. Some had already dropped out because they didn't "feel right" racing in our city under these circumstances. Thankfully, everyone I spoke to kept things in perspective. Certainly they wished that they could have raced, but all realized that their disappointment and sadness paled in comparison to what so many of our neighbors are going through.
No less than former NYC winner and Olympic medalist, Meb Keflezighi said
I respect the difficult decision made by Mayor Bloomberg and the NYRR to cancel the NYC Marathon. This race is a very special one for me and millions of people around the world, but I understand why it cannot be held under the current circumstances. Any inconveniences the cancellation causes me or the thousands of runners who trained and traveled for this race pales in comparison to the challenges faced by people in NYC and its vicinity in the aftermath of Sandy. New York is my favorite place to race, so I will be back to participate in other events soon. In the meantime, I would like to wish all of the people in the region the very best in the recovery efforts. I would also like to encourage all my fans to contribute what they can to the storm relief funds.
Once the news of the cancellation sunk in, marathoners sprung to action. Unlike many of those who complained about the marathon and the marathoners, the runners were ready to go to work. One group was led by our friend, Dr. Jordan Metzl. An estimated 1300 runners took the Staten Island Ferry and then distributed supplies throughout the devastated area.
Our very own Isang Smith was instrumental in organizing another effort that became known as Run Anyway, and resulted in more than 2,000 runners descending on Central Park on Marathon day, bringing donations for those in need. You can read Isang's account of the event and the process that lead up to it.
Ultimately, despite that disappointment they felt, despite being vilified by small-minded people, despite being threatened by by even smaller-minded people, our community of athletes got together and did something positive. Runners from all over the world volunteered their time and energy to help people who need it. Their selflessness makes me more proud than a personal best ever could. Congratulations marathoners.