Plenty of people are unhappy with New York City's decision to give the marathon a green light while New Yorkers are still reeling from the effects of Sandy. That's a logical thought process. But what's also important to remember is this isn't a battle of good versus evil.
At the heart of this story are people in Rockaway, Queens and Staten Island who desperately need all the help they can get. What started as the initial complaints of those residents slowly turning into an angry meme complete with villains, heroes, martyrs, and victims, complete with Tumblrs, online petitions garnering thousands of signatures to call off the race, angry tweets, and Facebook pages for every kind of protest.
What we have to remember here is that no one is trying to actively hurt anyone and it isn't a matter of good guys and bad guys (which it seems to be escalating into). Let us explain:
Who Are They: The New York Road Runners, Mayor Bloomberg, ING
What They Did: They went ahead with the decision to give the marathon a green light. They then defended their decision to give the marathon the green light yesterday. And with more people growing unhappy by the moment, they thought that announcing a $1 million donation to the Sandy relief effort yesterday would temper some of the anger. They were pretty wrong.
Why They Did It: Money. That's the driving factor here. Cancel the marathon and you lose out on the $350 million boost it provides New York businesses. And you could argue that bump could be used for good and to help the victims of Sandy, as Road Runner Chief Executive Mary Wittenberg did yesterday. "This isn’t about running, this is about helping the city ... We’re dedicating this race to the lives that were lost and helping the city recover. We want to raise money and awareness," she said.
The Defining Moment: Well there are plenty (starting with the go-ahead), but the current lightning rod is the fact that high-powered generators, which could power some 400 powerless Staten Island homes, rolled into Central Park this week to power a media tent 24/7. We more or less knew it was coming, but seeing the actual generators being rolled brings it all home.
The Situation They're In: There are good intentions here. And that $1 million donation is more than what some New York organizations have come up with (it's double the donation from the Yankees, for example). And who knows what kind of money can go to Sandy when it's eventually raised, but the optics don't favor these guys who made this decision even though Mayor Bloomberg has repeatedly said and promised resources were not being diverted from victims. In hindsight, postponing the race might have been a better decision if cancelation wasn't an option.
"The Innocent Villains"
Who Are They: The Runners
What They Did: They trained for month or years and registered for the 2012 Marathon.
Why They Did It: Lots of different reasons—endorphins, symbolism, health, unity, bragging rights, sense of personal accomplishments etc.—all the different reasons people run marathons.
The Defining Moment: Checking into hotels. As Connor Simpson wrote, some hotels have the unenviable dilemma of choosing to honor reservations for marathon runners versus housing victims of Sandy. You won't win this one if you're a marathon runner.
The Situation They're In: Well, for starters, people think you are wasting your time and being unhelpful. And people are quite happy to prescribe better things marathon could be doing with their time:
The NYC marathon runners should run on treadmills that will supply power to the NYC area— Lawrence Caputo (@Larrycaputo) November 2, 2012
The marathon runners should run to Staten Island and drop off desperately needed supplies.— Giulia Rozzi (@GiuliaRozzi) November 2, 2012
But there thankfully is some lucidity here too:
As much as the marathon may not be a good idea right now, don't take it out on the runners. They trained hard. If it's on, might as well go.— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) November 2, 2012
Who Are They: The Runners Who Quit
What They Did: They registered for the 2012 New York City Marathon. And then they quit the 2012 New York City Marathon.
Why They Did It: Well the backlash against the marathon doesn't help. But here's a popular Facebook message from an ex-marathoner posted on ING's (the marathon's sponsor) page:
The Defining Moment: Quitting.
The Situation They're In: They're being lauded (perhaps rightfully) for their actions and coming to this difficult decision (it's hard to imagine giving up something you've trained so hard for). And their numbers are growing. As Gothamist reported today, there's reportedly a group of marathon runners who are going to be organizing a protest at the starting line. And here's another Facebook message on ING's page showing the dichotomy between runners and ex-runners:
Who Are They: The New Yorkers in Rockaway, Queens and Staten Island who were the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.
What They Did: Voice their concerns that New York's resources shouldn't be used to stage an event if those resources could be used to help those in need. There are now multiple online petitions, Tumblrs, and all kinds of Facebook support for the cancellation of the marathon.
Why They Did It: Well there are people homeless in Rockaway, Queens and Staten Island. And there's a perpetually lit media tent in Central Park. You'd be angry too. But they're more concerned with the idea of aid getting to those areas, and from last night's reports about the lack of that happening in Staten Island, there's plenty to be concerned about.
The Situation They're In: The most important thing here is that these people need help. And that sentiment might be taking a back seat to the more popular story of marathon backlash.