It’s official: The New York City Marathon will happen as planned.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg made the official announcement on Wednesday that the 26.2-mile race through the streets of Manhattan will take place on Sunday, despite the devastation Superstorm Sandy brought on the city.
Jeff Smidt couldn’t be happier with the decision. The University of Virginia MBA student and avid runner (and former NYC resident) explains why he is proud to be running the marathon for the first time this weekend.
HLN: Why are you so passionate about running the marathon while the city tries to recover?
Jeff Smidt: I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for people of New York who are affected by Sandy to rally around an event that ultimately symbolizes perseverance and resilience. While I appreciate the concern that police officers and firefighters may be diverted to ensure course safety, the marathon is happening three days from now. It seems there’s ample time for first responder priorities to stabilize before the race. This won’t disrupt rescue workers: If power’s still out, they can continue to work to restore power -- they won’t be called in to work the marathon. The fact that Mayor Bloomberg is going on record saying this will happen shows that New York City is feeling confident in its ability to adequately guarantee the safety of participants. It’s an opportunity to bookend Sandy, and, as a city and a people, to move forward and continue our lives.
HLN: What about logistical difficulties Sandy has created: Parts of the course are currently closed and transportation into the city is challenging. How can residents and visitors deal with that?
JS: Getting into the city won’t be perfect, but as the travel picks up, it’s only going to get better. And it’s putting the city on a very aggressive timetable to get the city ready for the marathon. Putting on the marathon is a huge operation and will ultimately benefit the city because now there’s a pressing urge. It’s not just “let’s get people ready for work on Monday”-- now, there’s the pressure of getting ready for a nationally televised event by Sunday. The effort is now greater and priorities are better aligned to assist the city. The marathon won’t divert rescue efforts, it will accelerate them. I think historians are going to look back at this moment and realize this actually helped the city.
HLN: How will you be getting to New York City? Where will you be staying?
JS: I’m going to drive. Originally, I was going to stay at my girlfriend’s house in New Jersey, but her parents lost power, so she’s no longer coming with me to watch me run my first marathon. My grandma lives on the Upper East Side, so now I’m staying there with my parents. But it’s going to be interesting to figure out how I will get into the city, where I will park, and if I’ll have to take the train.
HLN: Are you upset that your girlfriend won’t be watching you race? Is she upset that you’re not helping her while her power is out?
JS: I’ve been looking forward to this race for quite some time. It’s been a dream of mine and my girlfriend understands that and she’s been very supportive in my training. The fact that her parents lost power is very difficult, but they’ve been able to relocate and were fortunate enough to find a spot with power. Whether I run the race or not is not going to affect how quickly their town regains power. I’m not an electrician -- I wouldn’t have a direct impact. So I go back to the idea that given the increased traffic into New York City and the enhanced importance of the race will expedite the recovery efforts. I think there will be really good karma in the city that will help entire tri-state area.
HLN: How do you think the city will look when you’re running through it on Sunday?
JS: Proud! Physically, it may have some devastation and destruction, but New Yorkers don’t let horrible events dictate the rest of their lives. The streets may be lined with tree branches or there may be flooding off to the side of the course that’s visible to the runners, but there will be a whole lot of proud New Yorkers who look forward to the marathon every year and are excited to know their lives are moving forward. Nothing represents moving forward than this marathon. It’s 26.2 miles, and when you train for a marathon, you have to learn how to keep running. Even when your body is saying you can’t do that extra mile, you have to keep pushing. It’s very symbolic: New York is obviously beaten down from effects of Sandy, but this is a great opportunity for people to go the extra mile. Don’t forget the devastation, but let’s see if we can move on. I look so forward to running through the streets of New York. There’s no greater tribute to pay to the city.