What Were the Arguments Against Canceling the 2012 NY Marathon?

What Were the Arguments Against Canceling the 2012 NY Marathon?
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By Martin Bodek, Marathoner

This was my argument:

My inbox, cell phone, and land line have absolutely blown up with e-mails, texts, and calls, respectively, concerning the cancellation of the NYC Marathon. I suppose it's because my friends know I'm an NYCM lifer. This would have been my fifteenth NYC and eighteenth overall. Friends no longer ask me if I'm going to run New York, rather, they wish me luck in the days leading up to race day. Indeed, for every year of this millennium, this annual autumn pastime has simply been what I've done the first Sunday of November.

The questions, though, have not been put to me in a way that I could answer "yes" or "no." Rather, they've begged for essay-length diatribes. They were sneaky questions as well, such as "Don't you think it would have been wrong to divert resources away from those that need it..." and "Was it ever a consideration on your part to not run in solidarity..." It was as if a trap was being set up, to see where I would stand on the Callous-Disregard-to-Human-Suffering meter. Clever, but I didn't take the bait. "Yes" or "no" won't do, so here's the answer everyone's been clamoring for, the opinion that everyone wants of me:

I believe the 2012 NYC Marathon should have been scheduled as usual.

Wait a minute, you might say, what about those suffering in Staten Island? What about those begging for Water in Queens? What about the disrespect for those still without power in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx?

I didn't finish, I would respond. Yes, I believe the marathon should have been staged, but it should have been staged in a manner that diverts no resources whatsoever from the hurricane victims.

How could that be accomplished? Simple: It should have taken place on the original marathon course of 1970, four loops around Central Park. The only police necessary would be those who work in the Central Park precinct anyway on a daily basis.

But how can 47,000 people fit into the park?

Easy: NYC already instituted staggered start times at the marathon and has done it this way at smaller races for years. All that would need to be done was to make that stagger over several hours.

But what about the $37,000-per-permit generators you'd be using that others in more dire need wouldn't have for our selfish endeavor?

Easy: We would do without them. Runners are not a spoiled bunch. We brave the cold every year at Fort Wadsworth; we can do so in Central Park.

But, an overzealous protester might say, how dare you accept free water when people are boiling the tap water in Breezy Point?

Easy: we'd carry the water on our backs and expect handouts from no one.

But, one might continue, what about the hotel rooms taken up by international runners that could instead be used to shelter storm victims?

Easy: in a show of respect and solidarity, runners who have used NYC hotels should obtain hotel rooms one hour's drive west of the city, donate their hotel rooms to victims, and organize busing for themselves from their hotels to the start line in Central Park.

The bottom line here is: Clearly there were solutions to this public-enraging problem, and for every grievance, there could have been another compromise. The problem is that the NYRRC is a gloriously dysfunctional club and has been since the departure of Allan Steinfeld. Fred Lebow and his friends were PR masters. Mary Wittenberg and her cronies are PR disasters. One need only to look at the no-baggage fiasco earlier this year that bears witness to this truth.

The real truth, however, is that the fate of 47,000 runners on a planet housing 7,000,000,000 people matters very little. What does matter to most of the world's inhabitants is power. Power itself powers the world, and I'd rather, at this point, offer opinions on the matter, because it matters more.

Why does power travel over land in suburbia when it works perfectly well underground in metro areas? If you're worried about erosion and corrosion, well, would you rather have the situation we have now in Northern Jersey?

Why are utility poles made of inflexible wood? Why aren't more pliant materials sought that might allow for some sway in the wind? Why aren't wires themselves constructed of flexible material? Why are power companies, as we speak, replacing everything that's broken with a functional version? Why isn't anything new being tried? Why is ConEdison not embarrassed by a lack of redundancy in the largest city in the United States? Why can't our homes be powered by giant "batteries"? Why have we not yet found a method for delivering power wirelessly? The Powermat is a start, and I celebrate its ingenuity, but we need to do better, now.

Unfortunately, I'm not a scientist, nor do I serve on the board of any power company or, for that matter, NYRR.

I am, and have, been asked for my opinion, however.

So there you have it.

As I was drafting this editorial, many movements arose to run the marathon as scheduled while finding ways to provide assistance to the devastated. There was the Run Anyway Marathon, The Alternative Marathon, and others. I participated with my own Makeshift Marathon in my neighborhood and am currently lobbying NYRR to obtain my medal.

Martin is the author of "The Year of Bad Behavior: Bearing Witness to the Uncouthiest of Humanity," available on Lulu and Amazon.

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