[UPDATE] Amid Controversy, New York City Marathon Canceled

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6:10 EST: After mounting criticism, the NYC Marathon has officially been cancelled.  In a tweet, the Mayor's office said:

We have decided to cancel the NYC marathon. The New York Road Runners will have additional information in days ahead for participants.

Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, president of the New York Road Runners, issued this joint statement:

"The Marathon has been an integral part of New York City's life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch. While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division.
The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination. We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event – even one as meaningful as this – to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.

Registered runners will have a guaranteed slot in next year's race or in the 2013 NYC Half Marathon, which will be run March 17.

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The New York Marathon, one of the world's most iconic road races, will go on as scheduled on Sunday despite the fact the city is still reeling from the wrath of super storm Sandy.

Many NYC residents expressed outrage over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement that the marathon will go on, even as much of the city remains without power and the death toll continues to rise.

Marathon Walk in New York City via Shutterstock

Bloomberg argues the marathon will add a big economic boost to the city during a time it really needs it.  The race generates an estimated $340 million. The Mayor's decision, however, has still angered thousands of residents who say the city can't handle the 40,000 or so racers who will be running through its streets.  In addition, nearly a third of the runners come from abroad and upon arrival are displacing local victims who have taken up residence in area hotels after they lost power or were flooded out of their apartments.

In response to the outrage, the New York Road Runners, who are putting on the event, have rebranded the marathon the "Race to Recover." NYRR has created a special fund and will donate at least $1 million, or $26.20 for each of the more than 40,000 runners expected to participate in the race. They are encouraging others to donate to relief efforts as well.

Despite the gesture by organizers, many are still angered by the fact that the marathon was not cancelled or postponed.

Staten Island, the marathon's starting point, suffered some of the worst destruction from Superstorm Sandy. At least 19 of New York's 37 deaths occurred in that borough, home to 500,000. When Bloomberg announced that the race would still start on the Staten Island side of the Verrizano bridge it was the final straw for many.

If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream," New York City Councilman James Oddo, who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, said on his Twitter account. "We have people with no homes and no hope right now."

Councilman Oddo added, “To begin this [race] one mile away from where we are still looking for bodies is sinful.”

Lower Manhattan, which looks like a wasteland, is part of the race route which goes through each of New York’s five boroughs and ends in Central Park.

While many oppose running the marathon this year, there are still supporters who laud Bloomberg for his decision. Quite a few runners race for a cause and cancelling the marathon might mean a loss of funds for their charities. Others have trained for months or even years and deserve to run. For many, it's a morale builder during a desperate time.

Still, it's hard to ignore the obvious.

Generators were set up Friday to provide electricity to the event's media tent in Central Park. "The three diesel-powered generators crank out 800 kilowatts — enough to power 400 homes in ravaged areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways and downtown Manhattan," reported The New York Post.

The 8,000 or so volunteers for the race could certainly be used elsewhere in the city

An online petition to postpone the marathon has nearly 20,000 signatures and there’s a Facebook post that’s being repeatedly shared:

Marathon runners: When you start at the Verrazano Bridge, half of you should turn around and run toward Hylan Blvd and go to Father Cappadanno or straight to Tottenville and help all those that lost their loved ones, lost their homes, lost everything in Staten Island… The other half should run through Brooklyn to Breezy Point to Long Island and help those that lost their homes and loved ones as well. There are so many people that need socks, t-shirts, shoes, water, hot food; these are all the same supplies that NYC will be providing to the thousands attending the NYC Marathon. Instead of running 26 miles through a city that President Obama declared a Major Disaster Area, run a gallon of gas to NJ so people don’t have to wait in line for 3 hours. I CANNOT believe the Mayor is still going to let the NYC Marathon go on.

So, for better or worse, it looks like the race will go on no matter what people think. We'll know Sunday if the city is able to handle it.

What do you think? Should the New York Marathon go on?

@jschonb
dare to dream
Also online at prettytough.com and womentalksports.com

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