Many runners were devastated by the cancellation of the New York City Marathon last week, but they didn’t let it stop them from finding creative ways to fit in a long run–and a lot of effort towards Hurricane Sandy relief. From runners who registered at the last minute to run in other races for charity, to runners who organized volunteer squads when they would have been running the race, they gave runners a good name–even despite the outrage previously been aimed their way.
Late last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and race organizers were still planning to hold the marathon as planned, hoping that it would bring people together and act as a symbol of the city’s resilience. They even set up media tents (powered by highly controversial generators), put up a race expo, and prepped for the traditional pre-race Spaghetti dinner in Central Park. But New Yorkers–particularly those who suffered the worst flooding and power outages in Staten Island (where the race begins), weren’t enthused about the use of city resources to put on a sporting event while thousands still suffered without electricity, heat, or even homes.
Under growing pressure to cancel, Bloomberg called off the ING NYC Marathon late Friday–but it didn’t stop runners from hitting the streets over the weekend. In a matter of hours, several groups started organizing volunteer squads; most notably, the but runners quickly organized alternative plans for their Sunday morning and afternoon.
Many got creative about combining their love of running, and desire to help out. New York Runners in Support of Staten Island, organized by Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports-medicine physician who was registered for Sunday’s race, amassed nearly 1,300 volunteers to literally run supplies out to Staten Island’s hurricane victims, carrying what they could in backpacks and bags while running through neighborhoods offering help. Photos from the group’s Facebook page are both terrifying–due to the sheer magnitude of damage to peoples homes–but heartwarming nonetheless. And as fuel shortages slow hurricane relief efforts, their choice to run supplies to victims isn’t just an athletic indulgence; it’s a huge help.
In Central Park, many runners ran an unofficial 26.2 mile course, and while not everyone was enthused about their persistence in the race (the race organizers didn’t open up the finish in central park), many used the makeshift event as another way to collect donations for hurricane relief.
Over the past week, Hurricane Sandy inspired a flurry of articles about how to stay fit when your power is out, and emails from boutique fitness studios in NYC updating customers about class schedules, or even encouraging people to brave the storm for the sake of taking a yoga class. In the face of so much tragedy, missing a spin class seems petty–and many felt the same about those who were planning to run a marathon. But the runners who used the change of plans to give back reminds us that being a good sport can go a long way, even off the field (or marathon course).