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Why the Marathon Is the Last Thing New York Needs

New York City Marathoners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 2011
New York City Marathoners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 2011Photograph by Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

The deepest wish of those in a disaster zone is to return to normalcy. We long for the restoration of necessities—water, electricity, transportation—and the resumption of the regular routine. The running of the New York City Marathon in 2001, two months after the 9/11 attacks, became a celebration of the city getting back to business—and pleasure—as usual.

This time, as New York and the surrounding region attempt to dry off and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, have vowed that the race will go on this Sunday. They justify the decision on grounds similar to 2001. Yet the circumstances and timing of this year’s marathon are so different that local citizens, politicians, and many runners themselves are questioning the wisdom of running the race while hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are still without basic necessities.