UPDATE: At 5 pm ET, officials said the race will not be held Sunday.
Not so fast, Andy Levy. Five-time NYC Marathon runner Brian Korb is with Mayor Bloomberg on this one. Here’s why we need to run it.
Complete list of people who think holding the NYC Marathon this Sunday is a good idea: 1. @MikeBloomberg
— Andy Levy (@andylevy) November 2, 2012
The devastation is terrible. People have lost their homes and their lives in the wake of this week’s tragic events. On that, we can all agree.
But we should run the marathon this Sunday. Yes. We should.
I live in an apartment in lower Manhattan without power and water. I truly understand how difficult life is for many New Yorkers right now. And I hope all those posting so angrily in opposition to my opinion are actively trying to help those in need. This is clearly not an easy question, one that those who have lost loved ones and their homes, probably aren’t even asking right now. I will try to answer this, focusing on how we can use the event for good.
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I’ve run the NYC Marathon five times (last year I participated as a guide for Achilles, running with a visually impaired athlete from Poland). I ran it in November 2001, less than 2 months after 9/11. Back then, many said the city should cancel the marathon, with real concerns about safety from potential terrorism. Life must go on, and so should the marathon. It is the ultimate healer in continuing to bring New York together.
The marathon itself has already officially dedicated this year’s event to focus on recovery efforts, and it will be run with a different tone this year. The New York Road Runners and marathon organizers have already teamed to donate over $2.5 million to relief efforts, with a goal to far exceed that. I’ve seen some participants already work to create a system where all marathon participants can do good by bringing much needed supplies to the start of the race in Staten Island, which seems to have received the brunt of damage.
If all 40,000 entrants bring supplies, warm clothes and food, that would be an excellent way to continue that good.
The NYC marathon receives global attention. While Katrina took several days of locals suffering before the true extent of damage was appreciated on a national/global level, the depth of the concerns here are being grasped more quickly. That said, by running the race and focusing on bringing awareness through nationwide TV coverage from NBC, we can bring even more attention to our great city and the important needs we have. Donations and support for those in need will only further increase through that attention.
The race brings millions of dollars in economic benefit to the city. It’s also important to keep tourism moving in the coming weeks and months, so as not to further add to the billions of economic harm reports are saying the region will suffer. Running the marathon will help with all of these things, but that is not to say these are pressing concerns from the people lacking basic essentials today.
The question of resources seems to be a major issue for people. That is not stopping anyone on the Upper West Side, where I have become a refugee in a kind home, from getting pedicures, buying expensive bottles of wine or shopping in pricey boutiques. It won’t stop many other activities on Sunday, including the Giants and Steelers playing a football game next to gas stations with lines a mile long. To you who bought your Book of Mormon tickets one year ago for the Sunday matinee, don’t worry, the show will go on.
These events pale in comparison or importance to the 40,000 people who have trained for months, some running in honor of a loved one no longer with them, many having raised millions to support cancer research or combat obesity. Some have overcome their own challenges to get to the starting line, like a Chilean miner, or the person who recently went into remission and is running because they can. Every runner will get to that starting line with their own story, but this is not about them right now.
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These questions of resources have been asked all week. Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse have full generator power to continue operations, but hospitals need to be evacuated. People are freezing without heat, but someone on the Upper West Side can get their hair blown out at a salon. These are life’s questions, especially for a city in New York where people shower with clean water, but in Africa people die of thirst every day. The question of resources is not an easy one, but it’s also not a zero sum game. The city has determined we have the ability to pull this off.
The marathon is already bringing in outside resources to help support the race. They are bringing in millions of donations to help those in need. Participants will do their part to help Staten Island, in addition to much of the good they already have done to get to the starting line. The marathon is raising awareness to those areas suffering and will continue to highlight New York as one of the most resilient cities on the planet.
We can do this. We can do this right. But we need your support.
Brian Korb is a 10-time marathon and Ironman finisher. Tweet him your opinion about the fate of the race @BrianKorb.