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NYC Marathon is canceled following storm damage

Associated Press Modified: November 3, 2012 at 3:02 am •  Published: November 3, 2012

From storm-scarred New Jersey to parts of Connecticut, a widespread lack of gasoline frustrated people who were just trying to get to work or pick up a load of groceries.

Lines of cars, and in many places queues of people on foot carrying bright red jerry cans, waited for hours for precious fuel. And those were the lucky ones. Other customers gave up after finding only closed stations or dry pumps marked with yellow tape or "No Gas" signs.

Bloomberg called the marathon an "integral part of New York City's life for 40 years" and insisted that holding the race would not require resources to be diverted from the recovery effort. But, he said, he understood the doubts.

City and race officials considered several alternatives: a modified course, postponement or an elite runners-only race. But they decided cancellation was the best option.

Organizers will donate various items that had been brought in for the race to relief efforts, from food, blankets and portable toilets to generators already set up on Staten Island.

Mary Wittenberg, president of the New York Road Runners, the group that organizes the marathon, said canceling was the right move.

"This is what we need to do and the right thing at this time," she said.

"It's been a week where we worked very closely with the mayor's office and felt very strongly, both of us together, that on Tuesday, it seemed that the best thing for New York on Sunday would be moving forward. As the days went on, just today it got to the point where that was no longer the case."

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association — the police department's largest union — called the decision to cancel the marathon "a wise choice."

"When you have a significant amount of people voicing real pain and unhappiness over its running, you have to hear that. You have to take that into consideration," said Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor for government affairs and communications.

"Something that is such a celebration of the best of New York can't become divisive," he said. "That is not good for the city now as we try to complete our recovery effort, and it is not good for the marathon in the long run."

ING, the financial company that is the title sponsor of the marathon, said it supported the decision to cancel. The firm's charitable giving arm has made a $500,000 contribution to help with relief and recovery efforts and is matching employee donations. Sponsor Poland Spring said it would donate the bottled water earmarked for the marathon to relief agencies, more than 200,000 bottles.

Race organizers had been expecting about 47,500 runners before the storm.

For now, they are sticking to their policy of no refunds for runners, but they will guarantee entry to next year's marathon or the half-marathon in March. However, Wittenberg said the group would review the refund policy.

Steve Brune, a Manhattan entrepreneur, was set to run his fourth New York City Marathon.

"I'm disappointed, but I can understand why it's more important to use our resources for those who have lost a lot," he said.

Nikki Davies arrived from London on Friday, eager to race.

"I can understand not wanting to run through devastated parts of the city," she said. "I thought if they cancel it, they'd cancel it earlier."

Now, she had 10 days to fill. On her agenda?

"A lot of sightseeing," she said.


Associated Press writers Cara Anna, Ronald Blum, Verena Dobnik, Melissa Murphy, Christina Rexrode, Michael Rubinkam and Ted Shaffrey in New York contributed to this report.