New York City Marathon Assesses Damage Before Race Decision

New York City Marathon Assessing Storm Damage Before Race Call
Pedestrians walk past an uprooted tree on Riverside Drive in New York. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

New York City Marathon officials continue to check damage caused by Hurricane Sandy before deciding what impact the biggest tropical storm in Atlantic Ocean history will have on the Nov. 4 race.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a press conference yesterday that the race would “go on as normal, as of now.” Bloomberg said he will continue to discuss the race’s logistics with city and marathon officials before a final decision is made.

Mary Wittenberg, president for the New York Road Runners, which organizes the annual race through the city’s five boroughs, said yesterday that the group is working with city officials to determine a specific course of action.

“This is a very challenging time for the people and city of New York,” Wittenberg said in a statement. “The city is rightfully focused on assessment, restoration and recovery. We stand with our city agency partners and support their efforts.”

Marathon spokesman Richard Finn today called Bloomberg’s statement “encouraging” and said that race preparations continued.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, speaking at a news conference today in Sydney, said staging the marathon will reinforce the perception of the city’s strength.

“I hope beyond hope they have the marathon on Sunday because we end up with about 30,000 runners and a couple million people on the streets of Manhattan, which reaffirms the fact that we’re tremendously resilient and can overcome anything,” Giuliani said. “One of the proudest things that I watched and participated in after Sept. 11 was making sure the marathon took place.”

Options Open

Wittenberg said race officials are keeping all options open and will make any accommodations and adjustments necessary to race day and race weekend events.

The 900-mile-wide (1,500 kilometer) storm produced life-threatening surges in a region with 60 million residents and caused what may add up to billions of dollars of damage.

If flooding or other damage affects the course or events related to the race, there are contingency plans in place and adjustments can be made, Wittenberg said on a media conference call two days ago.

While many runners who signed up for the 43rd edition said the safety and well-being of the region’s residents remains their first concern, they’re eager to run after months of training.

“Once you finish thinking about everyone’s safety, then you think, ‘I’ve run how many miles in the last four months? If it doesn’t happen, what do I do?’” Dawn Speckhart, a Roswell, Georgia, resident who will travel to New York to run her first marathon, said in a telephone interview. “It’s been stressful. You don’t want to complain. People have lost their houses and are worried about their lives. I’m just running a race.”

47,000 Runners

The 26.2-mile race is expected to attract about 47,000 runners this year, including about 20,000 international participants. New York Road Runners officials said race registration hours will be extended to accommodate late arrivals.

This year’s race will be carried on ESPN2, which reaches almost every household with cable or satellite television, and on ABC’s affiliate in the New York area as part of a five-year accord with the Walt Disney Co.-owned networks. New York is one of the five World Marathon Majors along with Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin.

Eleven days after registration opened for the New York race on Jan. 2, 50,000 entries had been submitted for its annual lottery selection system, a total that took 38 days longer to reach a year earlier.

‘Other Races’

T.J. Ryals, a 31-year-old resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, got into the race through the lottery.

“It will be great if they have it but, at the end of the day, it’s not something that I would hold against the New York Road Runners if they cancel,” Ryals, who will be running the race for the first time, said in a telephone interview. “There are other races.”

Ryals plans to run with his wife, Bethany, 27, who is recovering from elbow surgery following a bike crash in June. The two have completed two 140.6-mile Ironman triathlons and a 50-kilometer trail race in Alabama, but never a stand-alone marathon.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into the training, but the most important thing is that the personnel that needs to attend to the city is able to do what they need to do for the greater good,” Ryals said.

Sandy, which weakened as it passed over the U.S. east coast, shaped up to be among the worst storms in New York history, rivaling the blizzards of 1888 and 1947.

A fire in New York’s Queens borough destroyed at least 80 homes after the storm sent floodwaters gushing into the area. The storm submerged cars, tunnels and the subway system, and darkened swaths of the nation’s most populous city.

At least 18 deaths in New York City have been caused by the storm, Bloomberg said yesterday at a news conference. Bloomberg is the founder of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.

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