To Run, or Not to Run

As millions up and down the East Coast and inland states continue to recover from Superstorm Sandy, an iconic brand is under the microscope.

The New York City Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, one week to the day when Sandy proved an unruly guest that took lives, knocked out power to millions and changed communities forever.

Two days before the race, the decision whether or not to cancel the NYC Marathon is as heated as Obama v. Romney. On one hand, there’s the economic development – reportedly as much as $340 million some years – and clear message that the spirit that embodies the NYC Marathon is what New Yorkers need right now. On the other, it’s way too early, especially when many New Yorkers – particularly in Staten Island, where the race begins – are without power and even still searching for loved ones.

Kyra Oliver, friend, former client and the founder of Richmond marketing firm Oliver Creative and SIDS awareness nonprofit The Hayes Foundation, has been coaching a team of six New Yorkers who raised more than $45,000 for the CJ Foundation for SIDS. It will be her second NYC Marathon – she ran a speedy 3:20.01 in the 2009 edition.

“Honestly, I have gone back and forth in my mind because I’m an emotional person, and I feel for these people here,” Oliver said early Friday morning from a cab in New York City.  “The spirit of this city and the people that it’s bringing to the city, that enthusiasm and spirit is really important to helping these people…they’ve gone through so much.”

She believes that pushing the race back a few weeks – which she also would support – would lead many runners to defer running until next year resulting in a loss of economic development that the city needs now. Oliver added that of the 47,000 original registrants, about 40,000 are expected to run Sunday.

Regardless, if the race is run on Sunday, it will be different.

“New York is the race where you feel like a rock star the whole way,” Oliver said. “Typically the streets are lined at least five people deep, if not more. The only time you don’t see spectators is when you’re on the bridges. I am concerned that it is going to be less than usual and that we may get some negative support from people in areas that need help.”

Sports have a way of bringing communities back together. Mike Piazza and the Mets 10 days after 9/11, the return of the NFL after 9/11, the Saints’ return to the SuperDome. This is a tougher call. The race that means so much for runners all across the world – including many New Yorkers – risks alienating the people that matter most: people who have lost their homes, memories and loved ones.

The prudent thing to do early this week would have been to postpone for at least a week. Now, two days before the race with passionate runners arriving from all over the world, it appears the race must go on. We may have to wait until the finish line to see if the NYC Marathon brand takes a big hit.

Your thoughts?  Please comment.    

Sean Ryan

A former print journalist, Sean joined The Hodges Partnership in 2003 and leads Hodges’ media relations team. He manages media relations strategy and helps place client subject matter experts on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and more. Sean regularly helps place op-eds in top-tier papers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.

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