New York City Marathon endures, 10 years after Hurricane Sandy
The start line for the New York City Marathon traditionally starts at the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, built in 1964.
It is perhaps most famous for carrying runners into Brooklyn, where they follow a marathon route that takes them into Queens, up to the Bronx, and back down to the finish line at Central Park.
Yet, on the morning of November 4, 2012, Staten Island became the destination for Mary Wittenberg.
Wittenberg was the CEO of the New York Road Runners and the race director of the New York City Marathon.
For years she promised herself that she’d never live a bridge away from getting home to her family after 9/11.
After eleven years, on the biggest day of her professional career, she woke up and started running toward a bridge, trying to help those who needed it.
It was the worst hurricane I’d ever witnessed, and it was the second time that they had canceled the race.
She still wanted to run, and she still needed help.
She left her apartment on the Upper East side, ran through Central Park, and started heading down the West Side Highway, where she briefly joined up with some tourists from Minnesota who were supposed to run the marathon but, like so many others, instead were improvising their own route.
When she finally got to Staten Island, she saw all of the destruction that had been wrought by the storm. “You have never seen anything like what happened in Midland Beach,” she said. “It was like tidal waves and there are all these bungalows on the water.
In all, 43 people died in New York and more than $20 billion in damage was done.
Even after the storm first pulverized New York City on Monday, Oct. 29, organizers still planned to hold the race.
On Tuesday, everything except the race itself was canceled.
The week continued as voices demanding even this to be called off grew louder, and as the extent of the damage became clearer and the need for medical and other resources to aid in the recovery grew more obvious.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in a tight spot. He knows he has to call a truce with the unions, but he doesn’t want to lose the fight against congestion pricing.
The marathon is in the city. “We’re here to serve the community and support the city
It’s been 10 years since there was a major marathon in Boston, but it returns to full capacity this year, after being limited to 33,000 runners last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With Wittenberg (with Peter Ciaccia, who succeeded her as the race director in 2015. this time, too, they’ll run it.
She left NYRR in 2015 and the city four years later, but returned in 2021 as the president of the league’s professional league, and is back in that same apartment, where she can reflect fondly on her role in a seminal moment for New York, and for its marathon.
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