Although New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg declared that “time is on our side” for Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon, race officials are taking proactive measures to reschedule pre-race events and to accommodate participants affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Wittenberg, in a media teleconference on Monday afternoon, emphasized that registered runners would be given every opportunity to pick up their bib numbers or, if they are thwarted in their attempts to travel to New York City because of canceled flights and transportation backups, to defer their entry until next year.
“We are going to give everyone the time to get here and if they have to cancel, we will give them the chance to cancel up to Saturday,” Wittenberg said. Runners who can’t get to New York in time for the race will be given automatic entry into the 2013 race. The entry fee for 2012 will not be refunded.
Organizers also say they expect the ING New York City Marathon Health & Fitness Expo at the Jacob Javits Convention Center to open on Thursday as scheduled. The Javits Center is located in New York’s “A Zone,” an area in Lower Manhattan currently under evacuation orders due to the chance for extreme flooding expected Monday night from Sandy’s storm surge. Expo hours, Wittenberg said, will be extended as necessary to accommodate late-arriving runners who need to pick up their race numbers.
Current landfall of Hurricane Sandy is expected late Monday afternoon in southern New Jersey, with storm surges expected to be highest at high tide, between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. EDT. Subways, buses, and commuter rails have ceased operations, and many area bridges and tunnels were being shut down Monday afternoon. Residents in low-lying areas have been evacuated amid rising water and power outages.
Marathon officials are especially monitoring ferry terminals, which are a transportation resource in getting many runners to the start line, and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which buses use to transport runners to Staten Island. They are also working closely with the city, Parks Department, and the Central Park Conservancy regarding Central Park, which hosts the last six miles or so of the race. The park was closed on Monday.
Several Race Week events have been moved or rescheduled. The NYRR Run with Champions event for invited Young Runners on Thursday will be moved from Central Park to the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory, and the ceremonial Blue Line Painting and accompanying Abebe Bikila Award presentation scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Wednesday has been tentatively shifted to 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Wittenberg said that the main focus at the moment is on runners trying to reach New York, both domestically and from around the world, after Sandy has left its mark on the Eastern Seaboard. Nearly 20,000 international runners may be affected by flight cancellations or delays in response to the storm.
“There is no better city to handle this,” Wittenberg told reporters. “We have a number of options to get them into any of our surrounding airports. Our partner, United, is aware of our priority needs and stands ready to help us.”
Race officials are working with the international field of professional runners to help them rework their travel plans. “What we’re doing now is starting with looking at those locations that have once-a-day flights.” One of the Italian athletes, she said, has already been re-routed through Miami.
Photos by Kristine Smith. Bottom: Central Park was barricaded on Monday.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg