Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Marathon

Despite the devastation that Sandy has brought on New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has decided to go ahead and hold the New York City Marathon this Sunday.

I feel my spirits lifting already.  Not.


I can't even believe that this is in the works.  Sure, it has the potential to be a huge revenue boost for the city, but it also has the potential to be the biggest clusterfuck ever witnessed.

Have you seen the city?  I've seen enough pictures of places like Staten Island, Queens and lower Manhattan to know that the city isn't in any shape to host a marathon this weekend.  I can (sort of) understand the people who are in favor of the race happening who say things like, "It will empower the city" or "It will raise awareness."  Huh.  Like I said, I sort of understand them.  It all sounds good, but it really doesn't mean shit.  Because you know what else empowers the city?  Electricity being restored and garbage getting picked up.  Do you know what also raises awareness?  Telethons and pictures of the devastation.  It looks like a war zone in some of those places.  I saw pictures this morning of a woman cleaning out her mother's home where the water reached the roof of her home.  There is nothing left to salvage.  That picture inspired me to give money to HELP the victims of SANDY more than watching a bunch of runners trot through New York City ever will.  I read a story about two little boys whose bodies were just recovered after they were swept from their mother's arms during the storm.  I don't know about you, Mayor Bloomberg, but it just feels dirty and wrong to host a marathon less than a week after that mother's tragedy.

With so many people still suffering without power, heat, food and clean water it just seems like a dick move to announce that the marathon will go through this weekend, because it will "lift spirits."  I tell you what, if I was one of the people stuck in my cold and dark apartment the last thing that would lift my spirits would be a bunch of runners.  Unless those runners are bringing me a hot pizza and a new battery for my cell phone, they'd better watch it, because I might throw my rotten week old food at them as they passed by.

The marathon is a huge undertaking on a good day.  I've seen it.  (You didn't think for a second that I've actually RUN the marathon?  Ha.)  No, I didn't run.  I just watched it run by while I waited for the street to open back up again so I could hit the mall.  I've seen how much work it takes and I've seen how it can tie up traffic and police resources.  It is a total pain in the ass on a day when everything is working right.  The city is already a mess, why add more mess to it?

Because it's about money.  If Bloomberg cancels the race the city is out millions of dollars in revenue.  OK, but how are all of these out of town runners (with money to spend) going to get to New York?  LaGuardia is barely opened at this point and all of the other local airports and doing what they can to stay on schedule.  Where will they stay?  Hotels are full of locals who are either homeless now or trying to find a warm bed for the night.  How will they get around?  Subway service has resumed partially, but there are still lots of places you can't get to very easily.  Lines for the bus are outrageous and gas is scarce for cars and taxis and generators.  The marathon officials have said that they will get runners around on private buses, but wouldn't that money be better spent on rescue and clean up efforts?

And what will this undertaking cost the city?  Not just in dollars, but in time wasted that could be spent helping people.  Just think how much time has already been spent agonizing and strategizing how to keep the marathon going.  Imagine if that brain trust got together and started working on ways to clear streets of debris or something like that?

It's so easy for these officials and organizers sitting in their warm, well-lit homes each night stressing about how they can keep the marathon going.  I doubt any of them are in a place without power or food right now.  I doubt any of them are sitting in shelters or digging through the rubble that was once their home or burying their loved ones lost in the storm.  If they were, I'd guarantee the marathon would be the last thing on their minds.

I read that another concern is that the runners would have to refund their pledges that they've raised if they don't run so that's millions of dollars to charities too.

As someone who has a couple of avid runners in the family, I have donated to their causes when they run.  If they came to me now and said, "I'm sorry, the New York City Marathon is being cancelled and I can't run.  I'll have to refund your pledge to XYZ Charity" what do you think I would say?  Do you think I would say, "Yes, that makes sense.  I want that money back, you lazy SOB.  I was only giving that money because you were running.  Now that charity doesn't get anything from me.  Sorry, suckers!"

Of course not.  I think MOST people would say, "I'm sorry you can't run.  You must be disappointed.  I know you've trained hard and this was a dream of yours, but hopefully you can run next year.  In the meantime, please make sure my money gets to the XYZ Charity."

Most people are not assholes.  Most people understand that a major storm of epic proportions has just raged through New York City and it makes absolute and total sense to cancel the race, but still distribute the donations that they raised.  If a donor didn't think that way, I wouldn't worry, karma will definitely catch up with him!

I'm not saying the race needs to be cancelled this weekend - just postpone it, Mayor Bloomberg.  Your city is not ready.  Help your fellow New Yorkers first and then worry about the bottom line.

This is a tough one and people are divided on the topic.  What do you think?  

UPDATE:
The marathon is now canceled.  Good job doing the right thing.

Image:  ING NYC Marathon

39 comments:

Heather Buckner said...

I agree completely! I cannot even for a moment understand this decision.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Makes total sence to postpone this Marathan. What an idiot Mayor!!!!!

Toni said...

I agree as well, but I won't be donating to the Red Cross ever.

Cyn St.Clair said...

I'm all the way in Texas & this seems like COMMON SENSE to me. I don't understand it at all. I say bad decision too. Ugh. Cyn A.D.D.Music Mamma

Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0 said...

You're damn right. That is all.

Cheryl S. said...

What you said. 100%!

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% it makes me sick to know that my Aunt is still without power and yet this marathon is going to happen.

jillybean777 said...

I am a runner so I understand all that goes into preparing to run a marathon but holding this event is a terrible idea - the death toll is still rising, for goodness sake. Postponement may not be possible b/c of the winter weather on the horizon, so cancelling seems like a rational decision at this point. I feel badly for the runners, but I feel worse for the people of NYC. Sorry marathoners, I'm on their side!

Anonymous said...

I am originally from NY and I think it is a great idea to run the marathon. LIfe goes on. I know a lot of folks without power, but they will not get it back any sooner or later if the marathon is run or not. Go for it! Same idea as reopening the casinos in Atlantic City.

Joy said...

We have a co-worker who left this morning headed to the race. He said the mayor sent out an email to all the runners telling them "the race would go on." My co-worker is staying with his relatives so he won't need a hotel room, however, he was in agreement that he would have been fine for the race to be postponed. I grew up in Mississippi and now live in Alabama. We've lived through Katrina, Ivan, you name it... we have hurricanes every year, and yes, life goes on... AFTER you feel like you can pick up the pieces and begin again. Great post. And unfortunately, with the election coming up... I fear all the the victims of Sandy won't get the help they need from officials until after the election. Praying for all those involved!

Julie said...

Heard people displaced by the hurricane are being asked to leave hotels because the rooms were reserved by people coming for the marathon. A friend waited for hours to get gas at 7.50 a gallon so she and her husband could get to work and they ran out. It's absurd at best. They need to worry about their residents first

Anonymous said...

^ Julie, that is price gouging for the gas and I hope your friend reports it. The gas is there the issue is the stations are not open and it is hard for the tankers to GET to the stations and why bother until power is restored.

I think they should postpone the Marathon by a few weeks. That would be the LOGICAL thing to do.

Sorry Jen - I have sympathy for those two boys but am appalled by their mother. They ordered Staten Island to evacuate and those who stayed put their lives and their families lives at risk and also the first responders. If you are ordered out of an area where a storm is to hit - GO, do not question it, do not think you can survive or it won't be "that bad" - GO. I'm sorry, but ignorance costs lives.

This is Day 3 of recovery efforts - and the first priority was search and rescue. They will continue with that but they are getting resources there as fast as they can. Those frustrated already - try what we deal with each summer and fall in the south. And we deal. Day 3 here - we are lucky we see a power truck around here.

Kayla Arnolts said...

actually, as jen pointed out and as i know through experience with a marathoner-spouse, a marathon requires a lot of police resources... so undoubtedly the city could get back on its feet that much faster if they weren't deploying their forces to police this race.

LizaM said...

One of your most well-written and strongest posts yet! Tell 'em, Jenn!

Anonymous said...

I think this is a tough call. If you could postpone it I would say do so but cancelling it is a big deal. The city loses money, some people will be assholes and charities will lose money, and runners will have wasted all of their time training for a race (and a qualifying race I believe) that they can't run. I know that doesn't seem like a big deal in the face of the hurricane devestation, but for some of those people this is a huge goal and one they've worked hard for. If they can find a way to use private security and not divert first responders I think it could work.

lovetoread600 said...

How long are you suggesting they postpone it? Two weeks? Three weeks? The argument is still the same; lots of people still in a bad spot. It will take months for the place to be even remotely back to 'normal' (some people and place will never be). By then its too late in the year to host a marathon. Suggesting a postponement is ridiculous.

They offered a deferment to runners which I think is a reasonable compromise. I'm sure there are many that took the deferment and opted not to come.

As far as the poor woman burying her children goes, that is not a reason to postpone or cancel a marathon. Unfortunately I've buried a child. It sucks. But the world did not stop spinning for my child, nor did I expect it to. It will not stop spinning for hers either.

lovetoread600 said...

Wittenberg has already said they are planning to use private security.

Karen Rogers said...

Crazy to think they wouldn't postpone it. But it is all about money. As for donating money, go with the Salvation Army. It has the highest percentage of money going to the actual charity. Red Cross uses most of their money for "administration".

Sara Grimshaw said...

It is common sense to cancel this race....which our country has NONE of. Heck, NJ union bosses just turned away utility workers from Mississippi because they aren't union. I wonder if those people sitting in their houses with no heat care if they are union or not. Idiotic. I gave money through Mercuryone.org. Every single penny of money donated goes toward relief....none goes towards administration costs.

melissa said...

I completely and wholeheartedly disagree. So many people said we should not have had Mardi GRAS 2006, less than 6 months after Katrina. But we did, the city and citizens pulled together because it was important to the city and our people. To show yes we can do it! This is not the same but similar circumstances. New Yorkers are getting it back together and this is the best way to show the world they are down but not out! Some things you just gotta do to show you can.
Also I agree with karen Rogers above. I don't give to the red cross because they are too big and too admin heavy. I prefer to give to smaller, grass roots organizations where the money makes a bigger difference and goes further.

Kathryn said...

This IS a hard one. As a runner, I want the race to go on as planned. Every person who participates in a marathon has put weeks and possibly years of emotional and physical investment behind their goal of running a race like NYC. Postponing isn't really a good solution... most people travel in and would likely not be able to participate if the race was postponed. I feel like putting on the race IS a way for NYC to start to get back to normal. Bad shit happens all around the world every day and you just have to keep on keeping on. If we stopped and stood still every time bad things happened, no one would ever do anything. I like Meglissa's comparison to Hurricane Katrina and still holding Mardi Gras or we could even compare to the reopening of the stock market after September 11th (on September 17 - barely a week later).

HOWEVER, that being said, I also recognize why people think running a race is silly in the face of such suffering and devastation. I'm not talking about living without power... I've done that and yes, it sucks, but it is livable. (Our power was out for a week+ after Hurricane Irene.) I'm talking about the loss of homes, businesses, and lives. Those things are terrible and it will take many years for those who have suffered such losses to return to normalcy.

So I guess... why wait to begin that return?

Schemer said...

6 days is a little different than 6 months. If they wanted to have the marathon in 6 months, that would seem perfectly acceptable to me.

Ms. Pants said...

To have the race less than a week after the storm is downright unconscionable. Had anyone suggested a marathon go through New Orleans six days after Katrina, they'd have (rightfully) had that person's head on a stake. Right now, I'm having little stake-head fantasies about Bloomburg.

I read a story this morning about a NY runner who is using her bib to get on the shuttle to Staten Island with clothes and food and then going to help the people trapped there rather than running; you know, since no one can even *get* to Staten Island right now. So how can these marathon-backers justify bussing in however many runners show up to a starting line that's well within "running distance" of areas where bodies have yet to be found?

The generators used for the marathon could power 400 houses in Staten Island.

This whole thing is disgusting. Bloomburg is losing whatever shred of credibility he may have formerly had by keeping this marathon scheduled. They have insurance on the marathon in case of cancellation. What better reason to USE that insurance than the host city in ruins?

Confessions of a PTO Mom said...

Response to tragedy and grief is a personal thing. Some people may need this race on a very personal level, in ways you could not even begin to realize.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Jenn - I just adore your boldness. Thank you for saying so candidly what so many of us think and feel about this whole situation. I cannot imagine the grief of the mother her lost her boys, I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have lost everything literally overnight - I cannot imagine the courage of the people when the walk onto their property if it is even still attached to the ground it was once on, and force themselves to keep their eyes open and look at much of the evidence of their lives in ruins. But again, back to the people whose hearts will break every day for the rest of their lives because they lost people that they loved - people that meant the world to them. I agree that this is just not the time for a marathon in NY, it should be postponed.

Anonymous said...

Agreed.

DandyWarhol said...

My town was flooded in late June/early July of 2011. The water pooled and sat in peoples homes for weeks before receding. Many people lost everything. The state fair was scheduled to go on in mid-July when many people were only beginning to clean up and assess the damage to their homes. All hotels were booked with the flood victims. Then they were told that they had to leave due to reservations previously made by people attending the Fair. Our city was a disaster, and finally it dawned on the city officials that it was impossible to host the State Fair that year. Yes, many people banked on the Fair to make up most of their yearly income, whether by selling food or goods. But our city and its citizens were still trying to come to terms with what had just happened. And an influx of people in an already congested city would have made things that much worse for people who were recovering. It was on a smaller scale than the bitch known as Sandy, but the point is still the same. Put the citizens of your city first, don't add in more crazy a week after disaster strikes.

Jenny said...

I *just* heard on the Weather Channel that the NYC Marathon is now canceled. That makes Bloomberg a double-douche in my book, considering there are now runners en-route to NYC.

Split3ways said...

Agreed. Well said, as usual. Just wondering...how do you know clusterfuck is one word? Should it be cluster fuck or cluster-fuck? Never mind I check with urbandictionary and they all seem to be correct.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry Jen - I have sympathy for those two boys but am appalled by their mother. They ordered Staten Island to evacuate and those who stayed put their lives and their families lives at risk and also the first responders. If you are ordered out of an area where a storm is to hit - GO, do not question it, do not think you can survive or it won't be "that bad" - GO. I'm sorry, but ignorance costs lives." <~~..how very..compassionate of you. I am a mom to 4 and have 16 bucks in my wallet right now. How far do you think id get on that with my 4 kids in an emergency, sweetheart? Im sure as this womans 2 precious babies were being ripped from her arms she was really worried about your asshole opinion of her.

Anonymous said...

I was so relieved it was cancelled. The fact that it was even going to still happen was a joke, i have DONE them, the amounts of water, gatorade, bagels, fruit there could be taken to those SUFFERING within the city/State. I have friends on Staten Island who are running out of food, there is no gas, and the grocery stor near them is charging about 5-8 times the normal price - in CASH- for all items. They havent received any help yet (she wasn't complaining to me, but was telling me how scary it is when you have kids), and the fact that there was still going to be this Marathon with runners (again, i do this crap) running for fun & a great new pr, then gorging themselves while people are running out of food and water is sick. Not to mention taking first responders away from people who could be hurt from the hurricane aftermath to keep an eye on people who pay to possibly get hurt while running. It was totally inappropriate, and i am so happy it was canceled.

Anonymous said...

Just wow.

Anonymous said...

Preach it. My friends were in the SAME position. God bless you.

hip-hopopotamus said...

I agree! I'm one of those crazy runners,too! As much as I would be disappointed about not racing, I would get over it pretty quickly considering I have a warm bed and food while many don't. There are other races.

As far as the charities losing money goes, I did my first marathon for charity. People usually donate before the race and I would highly doubt that anyone would have asked for their money back if I did not complete the race due to injury or natural disaster. If they did, I would personally reimburse them in quarters and pelt them in the face.

Dyanne said...

I'm from Joplin, MO, and I cannot fathom how an event of pretty much any kind could be held only six days after a natural disaster of this caliber. Six days after the Joplin tornado, search teams were still looking for bodies in the piles of bricks and splinters of wood that used to be the center of our town. Find another time to host a marathon. Rebuilding lives is more important than a race.

NotesFromAbroad said...

I don't know what he was thinking in the first place to say it was going on ..
hip-hopopotamus,I would be there pelting too ! :)

Anonymous said...

These comments are a clusterfuck! Really? You have intertwined a hurricane, marathon, food shortages, dead children, Mardi Grad and God knows what else...why not throw in whether the NYC marathon was run after 9/11...mistake or revenue genius...

Sue said...

The story about non-union workers being turned away is not true. http://www.waff.com/story/19981857/some-nonunion-ala-crews-turned-away-from-sandy-recovery

Anonymous said...

I heard some cunt say that the marathon cancellation (somehow) ruined her wedding. The nerve of this witch.

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