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NYC Marathon Is On, Preparations Continue

By Aimee Berg | Oct. 31, 2012, 5:30 p.m. (ET)

New York City marathon preparations continued
Wednesday morning as workers hung banners on
the course in Central Park -- just two days after
Hurricane Sandy hit the city.
Two days after getting blasted by Hurricane Sandy,
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that
the 43rd New York City Marathon is on for Sunday.
On Halloween, two days after Hurricane Sandy hit
New York City, Central Park remained closed but
the 2012 marathon preparations continued.
At Merchants' Gate, a little more than a quarter mile
from the New York City Marathon finish line, the
remnants of Hurricane Sandy kept Central Park
closed on Wednesday, just four days before the 2012
2012 NYC marathon preparations continued at the
finish line on Wednesday -- just two days after
Hurricane Sandy flooded the subway system and
knocked out power to nearly 2 million people in the
New York City area.

NEW YORK – Two days after Hurricane Sandy blasted the East coast, there was a bit of sun in upper Manhattan but there was also total gridlock on midtown streets and sidewalks as the subways and Central Park remained closed on Wednesday morning.

While the city began its slow crawl back to normalcy and the damage assessment continued, New York Road Runners pressed forward in its effort to hold the 43rd New York City Marathon this Sunday.

Workers hung banners on lamp posts, travel agents re-booked flights, and the race’s technical director dealt with perhaps the biggest obstacle: how to get 47,000 runners to the start line on Staten Island if subway lines leading to the ferry remain shuttered throughout the weekend.

All the while, NYRR President and CEO Mary Wittenberg was confident that her team could deliver a successful marathon in just four days – to the relief of many runners, but also to the criticism of those who consider sporting events to be frivolous in the wake of a natural disaster. 

“You know this marathon would not go [on] in any way if it were to inhibit the recovery and restoration efforts,” Wittenberg said. “From New York Road Runners’ perspective, that is the vein in which we work.”

Ultimately it was up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the final call. By late Wednesday afternoon, he did. The race will go on.

Given airport closures, cancelled flights and flooded railroads, however, it is highly unlikely that everyone will make it to the start on Sunday but the number of dropouts so far, Wittenberg said, “has not been significant,” and added, “I would not underestimate the creativity of people to get here.”

A few elite athletes had already arrived, such as Amy Hastings who finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and Molly Pritz who was the top American female finisher in last year’s New York City marathon, placing 12th.

Hastings made the three-hour drive from Providence, Rhode Island, on Tuesday night with her new training partner, Kim Smith of New Zealand. They had originally planned to take the train, but found the drive to be “incredibly easy,” Hastings said.

“It was my first time coming to New York with no traffic,” Smith added. Smith placed fifth in the New York City marathon for the past two years.

The duo hadn’t seen any flooding, and on Wednesday morning, they took a short “shake-out” run along the perimeter of Central Park. “It was a lot of stop-and-go,” Hastings said. “I can’t wait to get in there.”

Tonight, they planned to run on the bike path on the west side of Manhattan, along the Hudson River – presuming it’s dry – with Lesley Higgins, a New York City resident who tried to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in the steeplechase.

“We definitely lucked out,” Hastings said. “We were in the best possible place.”

Pritz, however, had scheduled to fly in from Michigan on Tuesday, but over the weekend, the Detroit airport was closed for a separate weather event so she decided to start driving at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. There was only one problem.

Pritz, 24, wasn’t old enough to rent a car without incurring a hefty surcharge, so she convinced her mother to drive her.

After 14 hours on the highway, her mother’s Toyota pulled into the Hilton in midtown at about 3:00 p.m. on Monday.

What should have been an 11-hour drive was more like 13 or 14 hours, Pritz said, but only because of two accidents in Pennsylvania that were unrelated to weather. “The worst weather was in Michigan and Ohio,” she said. “Pennsylvania and New York were fine” by comparison.

Since Pritz had arrived in New York City before the brunt of Hurricane Sandy, she watched the storm unfold in her hotel room – which was sort of a new experience for the 2010 Bucknell University graduate and geology/geochemistry major.

“I don’t have TV or internet in Boulder [where I train] because I’m not ready to pay for that,” she explained. In fact, Pritz didn’t even have a sponsor when she made her marathon debut in New York City last year.  “I paid full-price for my shoes and ran in a t-shirt I had to buy for high school gym class,” she said with a laugh.

“I’m enjoying having so much TV,” she said, but trying to train in the hotel was another story. On Monday, when the city shut down to brace for the hurricane, the Hilton closed its fitness center to guests because there were too many windows so Pritz phoned several other gyms in the area to see who was open and eventually splurged on a $20 day pass at the Sheraton’s gym across the street.

Surprisingly, the hotel treadmill could actually accommodate her speed. “I ran 5:30 mile pace. I’ve never even run 5:30 pace on a treadmill,” she said, slightly in awe. “There was a 15-month old kid who was obsessed with watching me run. My first fan, I guess!”

Her mother, Marcella Pritz, wasn’t about to join her. “My mom and I are opposites,” Pritz said. “I don’t think she’s ever run in her life. When I was growing up, my parents called [the cable company] to get ESPN off the TV.

“My mom’s not even supposed to be here. Now she’s stuck with me,” Pritz said.

How her mother will pass the time and how Molly will fare on Sunday is anyone’s guess, but Pritz knows one thing: “I’m going to fly home [to Boulder],” she said.

Colorado is one of seven swing states in the Presidential election.

“I need to vote,” she said.

Aimee Berg is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.

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