Thankfully, NYC and the New York Road Runners Club cancelled last Sunday's 2012 NYC Marathon. The cancellation resulted after the outcry of throngs of New Yorkers, non New Yorkers runners and non-runners alike. United, they felt that the holding the race would divert very much needed resources away from those suffering in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, that struck the area on the Monday and Tuesday before the race. Staten Island, the start of the famed race, was especially hard hit, and the devastation and loss of life continues with each passing day.
Most people applauded the decision, but it came way too late. It also underscored a feeling I've had for sometime, since Mary Wittenberg took over as CEO of NYRR. Simply put, the NYC Marathon isn't about the runners anymore. It's about MONEY!
Back in a blog I wrote in August, I criticized , Ms. Wittenbergs' decision to end the baggage pick-up for the runners after the marathon. (Feel free to refer to that post below where I outline several changes, brought about under her "leadership" that discriminated against the local runner.) That decision, was ultimately rescinded by her after the huge outcry from local runners. She was loudly boooed by the runners who ran in the Coogans race in upper Manhattan, when she was introduced at the start of the race .
There's no question that the NYC marathon provides tremendous economic benefits to the city. As the owner of Fleet Feet Mahwah, I'm all for good business. The tragedy and travesty with the original decision to hold the marathon, and then cancel it late on Friday, is that it was based on business, rather than concern and sensitivity for those suffering from Sandy, or for the runners who were going to run the race.
Undoubtedly, Ms Wittenberg was under great pressure from Mayor Bloomberg. The tone deaf Mayor, with Ms W by his side, firmly dictated why the race would go on---end of discussion. They cited 9/11 and how the marathon was such a unifying force; they said it would prove to the world how NYC can bounce back from anything (we already KNOW that) and how businesses NEEDED the race. One of the worst reasons cited was that the mayor felt that the deceased victims, would have wanted the race to go on, to add to the city's economy. Really? All through their dictums, they ignored the cries of minions, saying the race shouldnt go on. They were blind to the images that would have been captured of runners, with hands held triumphantly over their heads, leaving Staten Island via the Verrazano Bridge; of runners being handed thousands of cups of water while Staten Island, and areas of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan are STILL without power, light, water and food.
Earlier in the week, Ms Wittenberg asked for volunteer medical personnel. Why? Well, apparently many of the previously committed physicians backed out, in order to serve the folks in the boroughs, who were suffering from Sandy. For that reason alone, the race should have been immediately cancelled. No race, for any amount of money, is worth running, if the life of one runner is placed in jeopardy due to lack of adequate staffing of medical professionals.
In the end, the mayor and Mary got what they wanted. The economic benefits to the city and NYRR, by duping traveling runners from the USA and the world, into thinking that the marathon would be held. By Friday's cancellation announcement, many runners and their families were already in the city, or en route, and would be spending their money in the city just as if the race were held.
Shame on you Mr Mayor! Shame on you Mary Wittenberg! The NYRR and the NYC Marathon is no longer about running anymore. Mary Wittenberg should resign from her duties, and $500,000 salary at NYRR, so that Fred Lebow can stop turning in his grave. Do you agree? We'd love to hear your opinion!
Matt Lauer "Today" interview with Mary Wittenberg