NYC Marathon is a go but issues abound

Runners jog through Park Slope in Brooklyn while Runners jog through Park Slope in Brooklyn while competing in the New York City Marathon. (Nov. 6, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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New York City Marathon officials continued to deal with countless contingencies Wednesday after Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly gave the go-ahead to run Sunday's race through the five boroughs amid the area's recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

"We remain very much in assessment mode," race director Mary Wittenberg said Wednesday, shortly after Bloomberg declared that the race "will go on."

There are myriad unsettled issues involving mass transportation, an enormous police presence and communications. And Wittenberg acknowledged her organization's "efforts are underway in several areas to maybe modify" -- including possible adjustments to the 26-mile, 385-yard course -- "but there is, at this time, no announcement of any of those modifications."

A field significantly smaller than the original crowd of 47,000 runners now is expected to participate, but Wittenberg said the Jacob Javits Center, where runners will pick up their race credentials and which had been without power, will be open Thursday at 10 a.m.

Central Park, where the marathon finishes, still was closed Wednesday and Wittenberg asked runners interested in pre-marathon training to stay away from the park "until the park and the city get back on their feet."

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While "some people said you shouldn't run the marathon," Bloomberg said, "there are an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy.

"There are tens of thousands of people who come from around the world to run," he said. "We suspect, by Sunday, most of the power will be back, if not all of it." He did say he might ask race officials to put a time limit on "stragglers," removing them from the course for their own safety.

A handful of elite professional runners, including 2009 New York champion Meb Keflezighi, said via conference call Wednesday that they remained committed to compete, though their travel plans to New York have been revised in the wake of Sandy.

"My heart goes out to New York and vicinity that have been hit pretty hard with Hurricane Sandy," Keflezighi said from his home in Northern California. "I've been glued to the TV with my wife. I hope everything is OK and we move forward with life, and I'm happy the marathon is still going and can be something positive for the city.

"If they put on the race, we'll give them a good show. Hopefully, we'll be the sunshine after what's gone on with the storm."

Wittenberg compared the full-speed-ahead reasoning to the 2001 marathon, when officials saw the event as symbolic of the city's full recovery from the 9/11 terrorist attacks two months earlier.

"I've always said the marathon is much more than a race," Wittenberg said, "and it never seems more true than this year. As after 9/11, our whole focus is on delivering an event that can aid New York City's recovery.

"What is a constant here is that the marathon has a huge impact for the city and is greatly valued by New Yorkers and by the city. An economic impact of $350 million, the positive impact that is quite significant when it comes to charities . . . and the message to the world of the resiliency of New York City.

"The only reason to put this marathon on now is to support this city, help us move forward and be a springboard back to the vibrant New York City we know and love."

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