After Sandy: Running on Empty



Despite the cancellation of the New York City Marathon, thousands of runners, many from overseas,  gathered for an unofficial race Sunday morning. Photo: Valerie Prassl.

About 2,000 runners gathered in Central Park Sunday morning for an unofficial mini-marathon, despite New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s cancellation of the official run in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Athletes travelled from all over the world to participate in world’s largest marathon, which was cancelled in a last minute announcement by the city government on Friday evening.

“I arrived from Germany earlier this week. We heard about the storm on the news, but we did not know how devastating it was until we arrived,” said Peter Ehler, from Nürnberg, Germany who travelled for his fourth New York marathon with a group of about 500 Germans. “It cost me a few thousand Euros to come here and prepare for the run. I think it is appropriate that the run was cancelled in terms of the storm but I am disappointed that the government did not announce the cancellation earlier.” He said many other runners did not express as much sympathy about the decision.

A group from the Netherlands to New York City heard about the cancellation Friday evening. “We were informed by a friend via text message, there was no official announcement made on the Internet by then, so we were confused at first,” said Petra Mijjer, a teacher from Utrecht, Netherlands.

Another couple arrived from the United Kingdom: “We arrived on Friday and heard the sad news as soon as we got off the airplane,” said Dr. Stephanie Jansen, a 36-year old dentist from Oxford who accompanied her boyfriend to New York City. “I think it is a waste in terms of all the preparations that were already made. Thousands of medals will just be thrown away.”

An announcement on the official New York City Marathon website, from the city and the New York Road Runners, states that “Neither NYRR nor the City could allow a controversy over the marathon to result in a dangerous situation or to distract attention from all the critically important work that is being done to help New York City recover from the storm.“

Many runners quickly changed their focus to the reason for the cancellation: Hundreds of runners took the ferry to Staten Island on Saturday morning to help hurricane victims in the most devastated areas.