Athletics: Mayor says marathon won't divert resources

Runners start the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, just days before Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Photo / AP
Runners start the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, just days before Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Photo / AP

The blue and orange finish line is in place in Central Park, no superstorm debris in sight. Little else is normal with the New York City Marathon on Monday (NZT).

The course will be the same since there was little damage but getting to the finish line could still be an adventure for runners from outlying areas.

Such is life in Superstorm Sandy's aftermath - disrupted trains, planes, buses and ferries, flooded buildings, blocked roads and knocked out power.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw none of this as insurmountable and defended the decision to hold the race, insisting resources wouldn't be diverted from storm victims. Electricity was expected to be restored to all of Manhattan by race day, freeing up "an enormous number of police".

"This city is a city where we have to go on," he said.

City Council member Domenic Recchia Jr, however, called plans to hold the race "just wrong" in light of the ongoing misery among residents with no food, shelter or electricity.

The marathon brings an estimated $340 million into the city, and race organisers say some of it will be used for recovery efforts. New York Road Runners, who operate the event, will donate $1 million to the fund and said more than $1.5 million in pledges already had been secured from sponsors. It was still unclear whether runners would get to the start by bus or ferry. NYRR president Mary Wittenberg said organisers commissioned buses to transport runners to Staten Island, but the city wanted to use the ferry, as in the past. Bloomberg expected full ferry service to resume tomorrow.

Many of the nearly 30,000 out-of-town entrants were still scrambling to get to New York, aided by the reopening of the area's three major airports. Wittenberg predicted more than 8000 of the 47,500 entrants originally expected won't make it.

Kenyan runners, including men's favourites Wilson Kipsang and Moses Mosop, flew from Nairobi to London to Boston, then drove to New York.

Favourites in the women's race include Olympic gold medallist Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia, bronze medallist Tatyana Arkhipova, of Russia, and world champion Edna Kiplagat, of Kenya.

The course runs from Staten Island to Brooklyn, then Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and back into Manhattan for the finish in Central Park. The park was still closed yesterday but will be ready by Monday. The route has never included areas hit hard by flooding, such as Coney Island and Lower Manhattan.

Meantime, many locals prepared for the race while coping with the messes Sandy left behind.

Latif Peracha was evacuated from the Lower Manhattan neighbourhood of Tribeca. While his building is flooded, his sixth-floor apartment is fine but he can't move back until next Thursday at the earliest. He is staying with a friend.

He knew his first marathon was going to be special; now he believes it's so much more.

"I think it'll be a great testament to the city's resilience," he said.

Dave Reeder was supposed to fly from Denver to LaGuardia with his wife and two children. Then they saw the photos of the flooded airport. Should they still try to make the trip? The race felt a bit "frivolous," he said. But he has decided to start.

- APNZ

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