NYC Marathon Renews Baggage Service After Runner Complaints

New York Road Runners, organizer of the ING New York City Marathon, reversed its Aug. 23 decision to cancel baggage-check service after participants from around the world complained about the change.

The Nov. 4 marathon, which will feature 47,000 runners traversing the city’s five boroughs, will allow participants to choose between storing personal belongings for later pickup and a no-baggage option, which will allow an earlier exit from the finish line area in Central Park.

Mary Wittenberg, chief executive officer of New York Road Runners, said “feedback regarding the no-baggage policy” led organizers of the world’s biggest marathon to work with city officials to give runners the choice.

“This adjusted 2012 marathon plan includes the use of reconfigured space that will enable us to offer a baggage option for those of you who prefer it, while still easing finish-line congestion and providing a better and safer post-race experience,” Wittenberg said in an e-mail to entrants.

About 1,500 people signed an online petition opposing the baggage ban, and Twitter, Facebook and Internet runners’ blogs were awash with complaints about the change. Advertising Age magazine ran an article critical of the NYRR’s handling of the decision, and Runner’s World called it a debacle.

Finisher Ponchos

Under the no-baggage policy, the NYRR had planned to 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 would be donated to charities. That plan will still apply to runners who choose not to check bags.

Under the original baggage program run by United Parcel Service Inc. for the past 15 years, runners checked items at the starting line in Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island and UPS trucks hauled them to Central Park for the finish. The NYRR said it took some runners as long as an hour to retrieve their baggage, leading to the cancellation last month. UPS will continue to provide storage and transportation this year, the NYRR said.

Wittenberg provided details of the new policy in a telephone news conference today. She was joined by Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, whom she credited with helping approve space and logistical support to offer runners the choice.

“We want to make sure runners have a meaningful and safe and memorable experience during the run, and we want to make sure that people can leave the park quickly upon completion of the run,” Wolfson told reporters. “We also keep in mind the concerns of neighborhood residents.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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