On Cancelling the NYC Marathon


Citizens are divided. Opinions are voiced with passion and often vitriol. Those on one side don’t want to listen to those on the other side. Tempers are raging. It’s a complete standoff.

I’m not referring to Tuesday’s presidential election, I’m referring to this:

The New York Marathon is on my bucket list. Actually, just completing a marathon…any marathon… is on my bucket list. While I wasn’t registered for this event and I don’t have any skin in the game I do have an opinion.

Canceling the event was the right call; waiting until the day before the race to do so was a big failure. I have firsthand experience in what it feels like to live in a city that’s been decimated by a natural disaster.

In May 2010, Nashville and surrounding areas in Middle Tennessee were flooded. Here’s one of many slide shows documenting the event. It was quite a while before the national news media caught on that something big and bad was happening here. There was no presidential visit. Many of us on Twitter took to cyberspace in a campaign to get some attention for this disaster. Keith Olbermann was the first to broadcast news about us and shortly afterward Anderson Cooper came here to film a segment of AC360 which was aptly titled Nashville Rising. I say “aptly” because by the time the national media woke up Middle Tennesseans were already mobilized to help each other. If you don’t believe me, read this.

Thankfully my home was not damaged so I had the honor of being able to donate my time to help others. I worked in a very disadvantaged neighborhood pulling up carpet and hardwood and knocking out drywall in humid, molded awfulness.

Nashville’s flood happened one week after our city’s marathon (The Country Music Marathon), not one week before as happened in New York. If the timing had been different I’m not sure how I would have felt about tearing out drywall while marathon runners passed by. I happened to have run the half marathon that day and I’m not sure I would have been able to do it knowing my fellow Nashvillians were in such extraordinary need. Yes, I know there are people in need every day, but come on, this was a 500-year flood…

…which brings me back to the New York City Marathon. Regardless of what Mayor Bloomberg stated when explaining his original decision to hold the marathon as planned, I have trouble believing the event would not have diverted resources away from the hurricane victims. Even if it were true the people of New York, at least those I saw on newscasts, felt disrespected.

Again, I wasn’t registered for today’s race. I didn’t lose my registration fee. I didn’t travel to New York after the mayor’s initial decision to let the race continue. It’s easy for me to be comfortable with my opinion.

There will be other New York Marathons. For now, it’s time to show respect for those who are hurting.

What say you? Do you think the mayor made the right call?

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