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Damp but Not Defeated: A Marathon Scrapbook

The weather for yesterday’s New York City Marathon was soggier than it’s been in recent years, but that didn’t stop the city from turning out in force to cheer on more than 50,000 runners on their exhausting five-borough tour. Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the race since 1977, and Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya won the men’s division.

We checked in on the race in Bay Ridge, Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg, Harlem, and the Upper East Side. At each location, all of the day’s usual block-party elements were in place — goofy signs and shouting day drinkers; little kids begging for high fives; neighbors handing out bananas, Halloween candy, salty pretzels, and sheets of paper towels — while dozens of bands and DJs all along the route kept things lively. The NYPD was out in force but kept things low-key, allowing people to have fun with the event.

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NYC Marathon: NYRR Prez on the Ropes Over Handling of Hurricane

Hurricane Sandy has claimed another victim, struggling to hold on: the New York Road Runners, the organization that puts on the New York City Marathon, and its president and chief executive officer Mary Wittenberg.

Earlier this month, the Road Runners called off the marathon at the request of the mayor, amid widespread criticism that the city simply didn’t have the resources to spare after the disaster. But ending one conflict has spurred many others.

There are the furious athletes, some of whom say they will cancel their membership in the organization, which holds numerous races for its members every year, or boycott its races in the future. They’re mad about lingering unanswered questions — whether their $216 entry fee will be refunded, for example — and the fact that it took so long to call off the race.

One formerly dedicated NYRR member even started a Facebook group bluntly named “Mary Wittenberg Should Resign.”

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“Does it really take a CEO or a genius to decide to cancel right on
the spot a 5 Boroughs marathon in NYC?” said the group’s organizer.
“Look at this monster. Sandy was a massive storm coming straight to NYC
at full speed. Mary was daydreaming on the job. She fell asleep at the
wheel, and we all crashed with her.”

Runner’s World and letsrun.com are also hosting forums to discuss whether Wittenberg should hand over her reins.

Two members of the Road Runners’ board of directors spoke to the Voice about their CEO.

“I
don’t have any comments except that I have total confidence in Mary
Wittenberg,” says Martin Oppenheimer. “This is a difficult time . . . and I
think everything will work out fine.”

Adds Eric Seiff: “Mary is an extraordinary talent and able,
committed, dedicated, all of the plus adjectives that you can think of.
The board fully appreciates having her as the CEO.”

Those comments aside, there has been little communication from
inside the organization, adding to the frustration of runners who simply
want their questions answered. The phone at the NYRR headquarters on
East 89th Street rang all day unanswered yesterday, and e-mails to the
senior staff went unreturned.

The Road Runners did post a message on their Facebook page Wednesday:
“Please know that our priority is to address your concerns. We ask that
you give us a little time to work out the details and make thoughtful
decisions. We are very grateful for your continued patience.”

That message drew hundreds of comments in response.

“I can only imagine the logistical mess. . . . There was not going to be a
good outcome no matter what the decision was going to be, so I for onecompletely understand and support my club,” wrote Effie Baram.

“I really don’t understand why NYRR has to take weeks to figure this
all out!” posted Jaime Aguilar. “As an executive, I know that if I was
the CEO of this organization I would have been sitting in a boardroom
with all the top executives brainstorming and would have come up with
solutions to this mess last week.”

And the organization might have greater concerns than public relations. In a recent article, The New York Times
reported that the marathon generated $23.3 million of the NYRR’s $41.2
million net worth last year. That means that with the cancellation of
this year’s event, the organization’s financial stability is at stake, a
reality that could lead to layoffs, reduced community-service programs,
and scaled-down races in the future.

For now, it’s all speculation.

“Obviously you take a huge
hit when you cancel a marathon which is the principle source of income
and so much of that money that comes in goes right out to charity so
there’s disappointment all around,” says Seiff. “But this is a very well
run organization, and there shouldn’t be any credibility given to the
idea that we’re not fully able to deal with this spotty blow and move
on.”

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NYC Marathon: Stupid Media Tent For Even Stupider Race Gets Power Before Thousands Of New Yorkers

UPDATE: Mike Bloomberg Defends Running the Marathon.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the lucky New Yorkers who currently has electricity — or you’re in a NYC Marathon media tent in Central Park that (as outrageous as it may sound) is getting electricity via-several diesel-powered generators.

If a stupid media tent for an even stupider race getting electricity before the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who currently are without power seems insulting, ridiculous, and flat-out idiotic, that’s because it is.

As it stands, nearly 600,000 New Yorkers are without power. Many of those people aren’t expected to have power restored for up to 10 days. But the sporting press for a stupid foot-race has all the juice they need — and then some.

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The New York Post reported this morning that the Marathon’s media
tent is getting fueled by “three diesel-powered generators” that “crank
out 800 kilowatts — enough to power
400 homes in ravaged areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways and
downtown Manhattan.”

In addition to the three generators pumping
electricity into the tent, there is a backup generator on standby —
just in case any of the three fail.

While we hate to be
redundant, this is for a stupid foot-race that only a few thousand people —
across the globe — give even half a shit about. It’s not the Super
Bowl. It’s not the Olympics. It’s a foot-race.

The only thing
more boring than running is watching other people run. And marathon
runners don’t even run fast, they run for distance. Watching a marathon
is like watching a real race in slow motion. 

That said, the media tent at the NYC Marathon is only there so sports
journalists can report to the miniscule audience of marathon enthusiasts
what we all already know: a Kenyan’s probably gonna win, several people
completed the race in wheelchairs, and running is fucking boring.

Because
a state of emergency has been declared in New York, the governor,
mayor, or even president Obama could order the generators used to power
the media tent be used to pump some juice into the homes of New Yorkers
without power.

Bloomberg, however, has said that the race will go
on. Obama’s got Ohio to worry about right now and probably isn’t
concerned that a few jerks were insensitive enough to use generators to
power a media tent in Central Park, and Cuomo has shucked and jived his way out of taking a side on whether the race should go on.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer seems to be one of the few politicians as outraged over the misuse of desperately needed generators as
every New Yorker should be.

Stringer issued the following statement in regards to the Marathon:

“But New York has experienced a tragedy of historic proportions. New
Yorkers in Staten Island, the Rockaways, Coney Island and Lower
Manhattan are struggling to keep body and soul together, deprived of
basic essentials as temperatures drop.

“For this reason, and after significant deliberation, I believe
we should postpone and re-schedule the New York City Marathon in order
to focus all of the City’s resources on the crucial task of helping our
neighbors recover from this disaster. New Yorkers deserve nothing less
than to know that the entire government is focused solely on returning
the City and their region back to normalcy.

“The next several days will test the mettle of our city’s
infrastructure, its residents and its government. We will come back
stronger than ever – but only then can the marathon be an event that all
New Yorkers can celebrate.”

In addition to the generators
getting wasted on a media tent, the race itself will require city
resources — including police, ambulances, etc. — be used to control
the parade route. New York City doesn’t have resources to waste right
now — especially on a stupid race.