Mixed feelings over marathon move
It did not seem too much of an inconvenience yesterday, a two-hour delay at Malpensa Airport in Milan. Nor was the nine-hour flight too uncomfortable. Raffaella Romazzotti was excited, headed to New York to run her first marathon.
Shortly after she landed, she received a startling text message. The marathon had been canceled.
"I'm very angry," said Romazzotti (34), an accountant who spent about $2,500 to travel to the race. "If Bloomberg decided to cancel, why couldn't he do that before?" she added, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"I know there is a big problem with Sandy, but not now."
Tens of thousands of runners found themselves in the same predicament, flying from Italy and France and Brazil and every state in the United States. Many of them spent thousands of dollars, only to learn that they would not be running 26.2 miles tomorrow as opposition continued to mount against putting on the race when so many were recovering from a devastating storm.
The responses from the runners ranged from anger to disappointment to understanding to relief to disbelief.
"It's a shock," said Joel Caballero, 37, of Mexico City, who was checking into his Midtown hotel yesterday evening, having learned only minutes earlier that there would be no marathon. He and his wife, Alex, had spent about $7,000 for the trip.
"I can't believe it. I'm mad, sad, disappointed. I want to cry."
About 14 months ago, Jon Kerwin's first half-marathon was cancelled because of Hurricane Irene. Kerwin (26) of Brooklyn, trained for the past five months for tomorrow's marathon, now washed away by Sandy.
"It is depressing because you put so much into it," Kerwin said, noting that he had raised $3,000 for charity and endured a rigorous fitness and dietary plan to get himself to race day. He even ran 15 miles Thursday as he hit the final stretch of his training.
But there is a silver lining to the cancellation, said Kerwin, who was at the gym when he heard the news.
"It relieves me of a moral issue," he said. Without any plans for the day, Kerwin said he had already reached out to organisers to find out if he could volunteer.
"I'm in shape and I'm more than capable of helping other people," he said. "It would be a waste to spend that day sitting at home."
Fabienne Bruneau, a 25-year-old in Murray Hill, raised more than $10,000 for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America for the marathon and said she did not want to let her supporters down by not completing the race, but she said she understood the decision made by the organizers.
Bruneau had not had power since Monday evening, shuttling between coffee shops to charge her phone and laptop, frequenting a gym outside her neighbourhood to stay on her training plan and cooking pasta by candlelight in the days leading up to the race.
"I do think that New Yorkers spoke up and they were listening to the people of New York," Bruneau said. "With the threat of protesters, I'm sure there were concerns about runner safety and I felt uncomfortable with the idea of less police and more people up in arms."
Eileen Vega-Lamboy, a marathoner from West New York, NJ, and a member of New York Road Runners, said she was planning to run in the race with three members of her family. But after Hurricane Sandy hit and opposition to the event swelled, Vega-Lamboy and her group launched a Facebook group to encourage runners to forgo the race and instead do volunteer work in the hardest-hit areas this weekend.
"We're very happy with the decision," Vega-Lamboy said. "We still plan to volunteer on Sunday and help out. We're happy to have it be a day of volunteering and we have people who agreed to donate meals."
Eline Oidvin (35) from the rural town of Tau, Norway, came to New York hoping to finish her second marathon. It was a tremendous burden. Visually impaired, she needed a guide to train for many months and a guide to accompany her to New York.
Oidvin, a physical therapist with two children, used her savings and donations from her family, spending about $7,500 to fly to New York and pay for hotels and other expenses.
"It's not a problem for me to understand why they are cancelling it," she said in her Midtown hotel after hearing about the cancellation. "I more than understand for the people who have lost their homes, but they should have told us sooner."
Joel Hegardt (50) of Gothenburg, Sweden, spent more than $5,000 travelling to New York, but said he understood when the race was cancelled.
Last night, he and friends were scrambling trying to organize an unofficial race that could be the New York Aid Marathon, where runners could donate $100 each to the city's recovery effort.
"We've all spent a lot of money to get here," Hegardt said. "We can spend a little more to help the people who are suffering."
New York Times