Runners finishing the ING New York City Marathon Nov. 4 won’t find their clothing, phones and other belongings waiting for them after officials canceled the baggage-check service that’s been part of the race for decades.
New York Road Runners, organizer of the world’s biggest marathon, said today it is eliminating the service to ease congestion in the finish area for about 47,000 runners. Under the program, which has been run by United Parcel Service Inc. for the past 15 years, runners would check their baggage at the starting line in Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island and UPS trucks would haul it to Central Park for the finish.
As a replacement this year, officials will provide fleece-lined, water-repellent ponchos at the end of the race and phone stations for runners to contact family and friends. Discarded clothing worn before the race will be donated to charities.
“Our primary objective is to provide our runners with the safest and best possible race-day experience,” New York Road Runners said in a statement. “We have received overwhelming feedback from our runners about the need to address the issue of post-race congestion and waiting time to exit Central Park.”
By mid-afternoon today, more than 500 people had signed an online petition on the website change.org calling for the NYRR to rescind the decision.
“Runners need fresh clean clothes, socks, cell phones, power bars, etc., in the bag check,” wrote a petitioner identifying himself as Ohmar Mercer of West Orange, New Jersey. “Without it, folks will freeze to death waiting and looking around for loved ones. Having no bag check is an outrage.”
John Ferris, 34, a New York City resident who says he has run more than a thousand races over the past 19 years, called the decision “the worst policy I have ever heard” in an e-mail message.
“It is bad enough that we have to go over hours before the race, often with bad weather conditions or wind,” Ferris wrote. “Now we can’t even have what we need with us.”
Other runners who didn’t get into the entry lottery this year said the new rule wouldn’t be an obstacle.
“Please let me in to run if people drop out, I can deal with no bag easily,” Baird Stiles wrote on ING New York City Marathon’s Facebook page.
The 26.2-mile (42.2 kilometer) race is one of the World Marathon Majors, along with those in Berlin, Boston, London and Chicago. Those races provide baggage checks.
New York Road Runners said UPS had provided more than 70 trucks and 300 volunteers to transport baggage. With the policy change, the trucks will no longer be needed.
“However, UPS employees will continue to be key members of our team, including a partner of our clothing donation effort at the start,” the NYRR said in a statement.