4 Nov 2012

Some New York marathon runners vent frustration

8:51 am on 4 November 2012

Runners from around the world who converged on New York for Sunday's marathon have expressed understanding but couldn't hide their bitter disappointment at the last-minute decision to call off the event due to superstorm Sandy.

After days of insisting the marathon would go ahead as a symbol of New York's determination to get back to normal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg bowed to growing public pressure late on Friday and pulled the plug.

Some 47,000 runners were registered to compete, many of whom had flown in from other countries.

New Zealander Hayley Jones, who travelled to New York to compete in the event, says the reality of the cancellation truly kicked in when she saw some people so upset they were crying on the street.

The Wellingtonian was looking on the bright side, though, as she told Radio New Zealand News had guaranteed entry into next year's marathon, and would put her training to good use at an event in Marlborough next month.

AFP reports former woman's tennis champion Amelie Mauresmo of France was furious at the way the decision was made.

"I find it incredible that they let participants think this event was going to take place," she wrote on Facebook. "When you look at all the reconstruction still needed in Manhattan and outside, it's impossible to understand."

"I understand the cancellation, but the timing is really bad. I am so upset we were told the marathon was still on until yesterday," Scott Solvsig, 39, told AFP after travelling from the US state of Missouri to participate. "We flew in and learned at the airport it was cancelled."

Meanwhile, one runner took media tycoon Bloomberg to task, writing "I love incompetent billionaires" on the back of his shirt.

Narciso Megia, however, stressed that the correct choice had been made, given that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers remain without power, drivers have had difficulty finding fuel, and some have even been left homeless.

"There just wasn't a good solution," said a New York runner, Anshal, who was hit by Sandy and wished the race had gone ahead as a morale boost. "I personally trained for a year, and have been out of power, water for a week, trying to stay motivated and focused. I needed this."

"It could have been a positive event, but I understand how others feel differently," he added.

Critics of the original plan to go ahead said that vital resources were being diverted to what was essentially entertainment.