Less than a week after Superstorm Sandy caused chaos in the greater New York area, thousands of runners headed to the city for the annual New York City Marathon.
Mercer Island resident Ginny Pietila and her husband Bradley decided to make the trip, though the couple they planned to travel with decided to defer their entry until next year. But after traveling across the country, it was announced Friday evening New York time, the race would be canceled, just a day before it was set to go.
Speculation raged in the days after the storm passed as to whether or not the event could and should be held. Both New York Road Runners, which organizes the race, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would continue, until Friday when news broke the race had in fact been canceled.
"The Marathon has been an integral part of New York City's life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement. "While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division."
Prior to the announcement, Pietila said it was a hard choice for them on whether or not to go.
“We had a long discussion on the pros and cons,” said Ginny Pietila on whether or not they would even go to New York. Pietila coaches the Club Emerald Triathlon Team and is the co-owner of Club Emerald on Mercer Island.
“I don’t want it to feel like we’re taking away service from anyone who needs it,” she said. “I’m glad we came.”
The Pietila’s flew to JFK on Thursday night, and Ginny said flying into the city they could see areas of darkness below them, obviously areas that were without power.
“It wasn’t a huge problem,” she said of traveling into the city. “We could see pockets of neighborhoods that were black, but traveling was very easy. We did have to stop at the checkpoint going into the city to show there were three of us in the car.”
But at night, coming into Manhattan, they could easily tell where the power began and ended.
“Coming in from Queens we could see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building but to the south, everything was dark. It was very weird. The new Trade Center building was light up, apparently it’s running on generators, was like a beacon.”
She said they are staying in midtown Manhattan, about a block from the now famous hanging crane.
“It’s become a massive tourist attraction,” she said.
Despite the destruction in some parts of the city, other portions seem to be returning to normal.
“Everything seems status quo,” she said. “We went to the expo and picked up our packets and everything was running as it should.” Pietila said she did the race in 2005 and noticed very few differences from then.
Though she hadn’t heard anything official on the numbers, she said there had to be fewer people planning to be there than usual.
“They’ve got to be down in numbers,” she said just hours before the race was canceled. “I don’t know how many have deferred, but I know our friends did. But the expo was packed, wall to wall people.”
In their limited time out and about in the city, Pietila said everyone they talked to was glad that the marathon was scheduled to continue.
“The people we’ve talked to have been extremely glad we were there and that it was going on,” she said. “Granted those people are the ones that benefit – waitresses, hotel staff etc. that the race goes on.”
But instead of heading to the starting line on Sunday morning, the couple will head back to Mercer Island without having run 26.2 miles.