Knowing that a tough decision was the right decision doesn't necessarily make it easier to deal with. By the time Friday afternoon roled around I knew that cancelling the New York City Marathon was the right move, a move that should have been done on Tuesday or Wednesday. That doesn't mean that waking up this morning to no race was any easier.
Yesterday I went to Hoboken with two runner friends to find a way to help with the recovery. First, it was truly incredible to see how different the scene is just a few miles away. While Harlem looks as though nothing happened,* Hoboken suffered serious water damage, with as many as 20,000 residents initially stranded by flooding. Walking to Hoboken High School which was serving as a donation collection center, my friends and I struggled to comprehend the magnitude of the damage. Much of the town is still without electricty and heat, many of the streets still choked with debris.
Second, it was also truly incredible to see the outpouring of warmth and kindness by so many people. Homes that had power put power strips on their stoops, many also providing hotwater and food. Restaurants and other local businesses that could offered free hot foot in front of their darkened store fronts. Volunteer sites were so packed that my friends I and were turned away from two before finding one where we could be of use (I can only hope that with this manpower at the city's disposal, my two college friends who live in Hoboken and who are getting married next weekend can concentrate on their upcoming nuptials).
Given this scene in Hoboken, I can only imagine what things look like in coastal Staten Island, the Rockaways, and Coney Island, areas directly exposed to the Atlantic Ocean. I just don't see how a marathon held in the backyard of these disaster areas could be justified.
Those who read this blog (or the blog of any runner who was planning to run today's race) knows how much time was spent training over the past four months. You also know how much runners were looking forward to what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For many runners, committing to New York is also a big financial decision as well. For those coming from out of town, the hefty race fee combined with hotel, travel, and dining costs amounts to a sizeable chunk of disposable income. Yes, cancelling the race was without a doubt the right move, but that doesn't diminish any of the sacrifices runners made in preparation for the race that wasn't.
It was impressive to see so many runners in Central Park this morning, but it was even more impressive to see so many runners and their families in other areas of the city and region this afternoon, putting their presence to use. I can only hope that when next year's race rolls along, people remember the positive efforts of runners, the donations made by NYRR, and the other ways in which the city came together, rather than the two days of controversy between Wednesday's premature decision and Friday's attempt to rectify an grave mistake.
With that, happy running and rebuilding everyone.
* If you live in Harlem and suffered damage from Sandy, I apologize profusely. I simply mean that in my neck of the woods, the streets look virtually the same post-Sandy and they did before. No one that I know of in the area lost power, though there were plenty of downed tree limbs and even some toppled trees and shrubs.