The NYC Marathon is scheduled to proceed as planned this Sunday, but some people—including a group of runners who ordinarily participate in the massive event—are urging the city to cancel or postpone it because of Hurricane Sandy. Critics say that the thousands of volunteers who help out along the route could be directed to help with post-Sandy relief and cleanup, and they also argue that the event will divert thousands of police from important hurricane-related duties.

An online petition was started this morning shortly after we received this open letter from a regular NYC marathon runner. The runner, who is entered in this year's race but asked to remain anonymous, tells us it would be "difficult if not impossible to run in good conscience. This is not to mention the physical difficulties in preparing and running a 26.2 mile race when I have no power or water and very likely will not by Sunday." Here the letter, drafted on behalf of a group of runners opposed to holding the marathon this week:

I urge all New Yorkers to protest the horrible decision made by the New York Road Runners’ CEO Mary Wittenberg in conjunction with Mayor Bloomberg to have the ING NYC Marathon proceed as scheduled this Sunday November 4th despite the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. This decision will almost assuredly cost someone, somewhere, their life, when you take into consideration the following:

  • Urgent civil services such as police, fire, EMS, ambulances and rescue personnel will be diverted away from areas where they are truly needed and towards the Marathon. With huge areas of Manhattan as well as Queens still without power, all police and fire should be ready to assist in the case of a catastrophic emergency, not pre-occupied with a road race.
  • At a time when major arteries such as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Holland Tunnel are still closed, it is unthinkable to close down the Verrazano Bridge and Queensboro Bridge, not to mention huge swaths of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Anyone who has tried to get around the city knows how difficult it has been. Although the race is on a Sunday, crucial services such as ambulances will likely be delayed with no alternative routes, resulting in loss of life.
  • In the best of times, the Marathon puts a huge strain on the city’s resources but is worth it as it is a huge positive in so many ways. This year it is unwelcome, unnecessary and a burden.
  • The ripple effects will be felt by the City’s neighbors in Long Island and New Jersey, where millions have no power and are dealing with loss of life and significant property. Any additional stressors should be avoided.
  • Many residents who lost their homes or their power who are staying in hotels will be kicked out of their hotel rooms in order to make room for out of town runners. Out of town runners will find incredible logistical problems that await them, if they can even find flights that will bring them in to the City as scheduled.
  • The majority of locals runners are in no state to push their bodies in these times of stress. People are dealing with staying alive, staying warm, getting to work and finding food and gasoline. The Mayor and Mary Wittenberg are forcing people to choose between their health and fighting against their athletic and personal drive (and in many instances, running the Marathon for a charity or in memory of a loved one).
  • On a lesser note, it will be extremely difficult for runners to pick their race number with limited MTA service and numerous significant problems around the area, as well as to make arrangements for the day of the race.

(1) cancel the Marathon for this weekend,
(2) reschedule the Marathon for the Spring of 2013 - there can easily be two Marathons next year as the number of requested entrants always overwhelmingly exceeds the number of slots that are actually provided
(3) encourage all would-be Marathon to volunteer their time and athletic prowess by delivering meals and groceries to elderly and disabled residents of high rises that are without power or to contribute in other ways,
(4) encourage all residents to purchase meals, groceries and goods from those businesses that the Mayor’s office identifies as being economically affected by the postponement (i.e., 1st ave in Manhattan an, 4th Ave in Brooklyn) and donating them to charities identified by the Mayor.

NYC Marathon sponsor ING should also be taken to task for not encouraging a postponement or cancellation.

On the official website, the marathon's organizers say, "This year’s marathon is dedicated to the City of New York, the victims of the hurricane, and their families." According to organizers, there will be "substantial modifications to the logistics and operations of the race, including the transportation plan, due to the impact of the storm." Among the changes, runners will now take buses from the main branch of the New York Public Library to the starting line in Staten Island.