The 43rd running of the New York City Marathon is a year late. Last year’s marathon was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy. There will also be extra security for Sunday’s race because of the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April. Mary Pilon of the New York Times joins Bill.
BL: There was a lot of anger and confusion in New York when marathon organizers tried to go ahead with last year’s race and then canceled it at the last minute. Are New Yorkers prepared to cheer for the runners again?
MP: I think where it’s going to be most telling post-Sandy are the parts of the city that are still recovering. Staten Island where the race starts is going to be a place to watch. There’s been a huge emphasis on behalf of the New York Road Runners and trying to funnel a lot of energy towards Sandy relief.
They had Staten Island Day just last month. That went quite successfully from the people I’ve talked to who were there. There’s been road races, several since Sandy, and several since Boston, where organizers have been able to kind of put some feelers out there and see both on security and on the hurricane [to see] how things are going to go.
BL: Some of the thousands of runners who came to New York for last year’s marathon, which of course didn’t happen, spent the day cleaning up neighborhoods effected by Sandy. I wonder, is that effort being remembered as people prepare for this year’s race?
MP: Yeah, absolutely. On marathon Sunday last year when the race was canceled — I have to say I’ve never seen anything like it — we got up that morning knowing the race was going to be canceled. And you know, I and my colleagues fanned out across the city, and you just saw runners doing incredible volunteer work. They were donating supplies and a lot of those runners, they had the option of either getting a refund or trying to run the race this year, next year, or the year after and a lot of them are coming back.
So, you’re going to see … a bracelet that some of them get that were training for 2012 and didn’t run it. Those exact same people are going to be running this race and a lot of their cheering squads will be there, so I definitely think it’s going to be a significant presence.
BL: New York Road Runners CEO Marry Wittenberg told you that there was now a “new normal for marathon security.” Do you a sense of what “new normal” means in this context?MP: Absolutely, I think that our police apparatus because of 9/11, it’s almost paramilitary. I mean, we have just way more counter-terrorism officials than a lot of other cities do, but a marathon inherently is a tricky event. It’s 26.2 miles, of course. It’s not quite like a stadium event where you can seal it off, not that that’s an easy feat, but the [New York] Road Runners organizers told us right after the bombs went off in Boston they immediately did a top-to-bottom review of their protocols.
So what you’re going to see is that at some key points of the race — like the finish line — they’re going to kind of mimic that stadium-like feel where everybody’s bag is going to be searched. They’ve long encouraged runners at the finish line to meet their family and friends further away, to try and not bring bags, just to streamline things as long as possible.
You’re going to see a lot more police officers out in the streets. Some of them will be uniformed, some of them will be probably undercover. There’s no reason to believe that the New York Police Department and their federal counterparts in the city aren’t going to be busting out all the stops for this event because it is so high profile. There’s so many people and so many parts of the city are impacted.
BL: Mary, tell us a little bit about the yellow line that’s been painted next to the traditional blue line that guides New York marathoners to the finish.MP: The Boston bombings had a tremendous impact obviously in Boston and in New York and in those running communities — much like the cities — there’s a lot of back and forth…
You’re gonna have the lines. There are going to be a lot of ribbons. And I think there are going to be a lot of tributes and I think some Boston-based charities have teams running in the race. So, much like we’ve seen in the last few months, I think that this event is definitely going to be paying tribute to the unfortunate events in Boston this year.