1 Nov 2012

Can New York really run a marathon on Sunday?

It would be a seen as a victory for human nature over mother nature, but can New York really run a marathon just six days after the Big Apple was battered by Superstorm Sandy?

According to New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the marathon will go ahead, as planned, on Sunday 4 November.

Speaking at a press conference he said it was a “great event” for the city: “There’s tens of thousands of people who have come from around the world here to run and we have decided the marathon will go on and we expect that by Sunday most of the power will be on if not all of it.”

The event, which attracts almost 50,000 runners, has been dedicated to New York, the victims of Sandy and their families.

The 26.2 mile route begins on Staten Island and weaves its way through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx before ending in Central Park. The course largely avoids areas worst hit by Sandy, including lower Manhattan.

But not everyone thinks it should go ahead. Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro “assumed” the race was cancelled.

“My God. What we have here is terrible, a disaster. If they want to race, let them race with themselves. This is no time for a parade. A marathon is a parade. Now is the time to put your shoulder to the wheel. If they want to prepare for something, let them prepare for the election, not a marathon.”

Logistical problems

Organisers say there will be “substantial modifications” to logistics and participants are being urged to check the official website for updates.

The biggest concern is how many of the 20,000 international runners will be able to make it to New York.

JFK and Newark airports have reopened but thousands of flights were cancelled, leaving a significant backlog. LaGuardia, a third major airport, is reopening on Thursday.

Elin Tough, who works for health and fitness magazine Zest, is due to fly from London to New York on Friday afternoon.

She is running the marathon for The Dream Project Foundation, an orphanage on the border of Thailand and Burma, and told Channel 4 News after months of training and raising money she felt a “wave of disappointment” when she thought it might be cancelled.

“I know there are some people who don’t think it should be on but there’s also the idea that New York needs to show it can bounce back.

“I think it could go one of either two ways – it’s either going to make even more people come out and support and cheer, or the crowds could peter out a little in the areas affected.”

Alternative plans

Elite athletes have had their flights rescheduled, many via Boston, to ensure they can get to the city in time.

Another headache for organisers is how those who have made it into the city will get to the start line on Staten Island.

A limited New York subway service has started, four days after it was submerged and forced to shut down, but the Staten Island Ferry remains suspended.

Organisers are currently considering alternative plans to get runners to where they need to be on Sunday morning.

If New York successfully manages to run a marathon six days after a storm which left dozens dead, thousands homeless and millions without power then the city’s human nature will certainly have got one back on mother nature.