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 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 the Red Cross 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? While you're leaving me your comment, be sure to donate to the relief efforts too.
Follow Jen M.L. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@throat_punch