Friday, November 2, 2012

Week 16: There Are No Winners Here

On Sunday night, they shut down the entire NYC transportation system. At the time, I wasn't too worried – they had done the same thing for Irene and while there was damage, it was for the most part sustained outside of the city. I thought that perhaps we’d be back to normal pretty quickly.

But as the weekend unfolded, it was pretty clear that we would be facing a far direr situation. Since we were on the wrong side of the eye of the storm, we would be hit far worse than we were during Irene. I had considered walking the 2.7 miles to my office on Monday, but doing so would have been extremely dangerous, especially coming home. So I stayed indoors all day Monday, watching the news as more and more of Manhattan was losing power, wondering whether my neighborhood would be next.

I ended up being one of the lucky ones, and didn't lose power, but others were not so lucky. Manhattan lost power south of midtown, and there was a crane in the process of falling that forced thousands of people to evacuate. In the outer boroughs and New Jersey, some people lost power, while others lost their homes, and even their loved ones.

I haven’t been able to go to my office all week, as it lost power, and wasn't reassigned anywhere until Wednesday. While I’m grateful that I have not lost anything significant, I think that it’s incredibly unfair that I am being docked vacation for Monday and Tuesday, even though there was no way for me to get to work, and I wasn't informed of any alternatives at that time. It sucks, but as I said earlier, I was one of the lucky ones. My family and friends remained safe, and although a few lost power, they faced no significant damage as far as I know.

But the real controversy I’d like to address is the New York City Marathon. After I saw how bad the damage was, I had started to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable cancellation. They couldn’t possibly hold this marathon when our transportation is crippled, millions of people are without electricity, and there was so much repair work to be done, right? Although I would be heartbroken about losing my two year long dream, I knew that it could be necessary. Nothing a night or two of crying, eating ice cream, and drinking couldn't fix, right? Then obviously, I would go for a run, and start making up contingency plans like I usually do.

However, to my surprise, I found out that the marathon was going on as planned, with some minor adjustments. I felt relieved at first, but then wondered whether this was really the right decision. On the one hand, the city’s infrastructure was nowhere near completely recovered, but on the other hand, holding the marathon would bring economic relief into the city, and symbolize the determination and grit that us New Yorkers are famous for. It was a tough decision for the Mayor to make, and although I’m not certain that it was the right decision, it had been made nonetheless. I fully expected disagreement on this, but not only were people saying terrible things about the mayor and NYRR, but they were even insulting the runners, saying that their participation would be a slap in the face to those who had lost their lives, homes, and power, and were still waiting on aid.

This is beyond unacceptable. How dare someone suggest that I don’t care about the city that I have lived my entire life! Do people really think that I am not devastated at the losses that these people are suffering? I have donated money towards two different relief efforts, and I plan on donating blood next week and volunteering if possible.

 It is up to the individual runner to decide whether they would still like to participate in this year’s event. While I respect any and all decisions made, here is something to keep in mind: Boycotting will not change the fact that this event is being run, nor will it change the resources used that day. It certainly won’t undo the damage that has been done to the NYC metro area and beyond.
If you don’t want to support the runners, that is fine. Just do us all a favor and stay away. If you’re angry that this race is being run, that’s fine. Just don’t take your anger at Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg out on the runners on the course. They didn't decide to hold this race, and it would be a slap in the face to the running community, especially to the locals who have decided to use this as an opportunity to raise money on behalf of the victims.

Either way, whether the right decision was made or not, the NYC Marathon will never be the same as it has been, and I don’t think that it will be looked on favorably by the community for a long time to come. As for me, I will still give it my all, but despite the support that I have received from my family and friends, finishing it will just not be as meaningful as it once was. 


  1. Well said Dahlia. They decided to hold it, so the resources are allocated either way. It's each runner's choice to go ahead, or skip and volunteer some other way. So true too that this will reflect on the marathon for years to come. May it be a great race for you, and meaningful in the ways you need it to be. I'm betting the shirt messages will tell a very different story this year, looking forward to seeing those (virtually at least, I'm in PA now) and hope it goes smoothly!

  2. I agree, well said Dahlia. It is a tough situation and I think more compassion is needed all around-- by the NYRR folks and the mayor, to the people who've had such devastating losses, and by the people throwing around such vitriol at people who are only making a decision to go forward with an event they have been planning for a long time. It is not as if the runners are oblivious to or unsympathetic to the damage, we just know we won't be doing any good by staying home, if the event is happening anyway.

  3. Actually I think for you Dahlia the marathon should be twice as meaningful as it was. You are running in the city that you love, that is in need of positive, forward-thinking energy right now given what it just went through. The marathon will provide that, and much-needed economic stimulus as well.

    Plus, you have done your share as a caring human to contribute to the relief cause.

    So RUN: run strong, run for your excellent training, run for humanity! And this Aunt of yours will be cheering you on.