NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Five days before New York hosts its namesake marathon, its public transportation is shut down, its airports closed, its streets flooded and power is out in many neighborhoods.
On Monday, as megastorm Sandy started to pound the city, NYC Marathon officials insisted they would have enough time before Sunday’s race to prepare the course and for runners to travel to New York.
But it was uncertain Tuesday when life in the city would return to normal, and organizers promised an update on marathon preparations.
The mayor of storm-battered New York says the race is still on, but flying in runners from out of town will be tricky, and there may not be a subway to get everyone to the starting line.
Still, race organizers said were moving forward with plans Tuesday, leaving open the possibility of changes from past years.
“The marathon has always been a special day for New Yorkers as a symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this city,” New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said in a statement.
The 26.2-mile route through the five boroughs mostly avoids the areas hit hardest by flooding. Organizers were expecting nearly 50,000 runners before the storm hit. However they have no idea how many will actually make it into start the race.
“We will keep all options open with regard to making any accommodations and adjustments necessary to race day and race weekend events,” she said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the subways were running again, which means they may not be available on race day. Commuter trains may not be operating normally, either.
The starting line is on Staten Island and about half the entrants normally would take the ferry and others would take buses through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Both were closed because of flooding.
The marathon was projected to pour $340 million into the city, but it also requires major support from municipal departments strained by the monster storm that wreaked havoc Monday evening.
“The city is rightfully focused on assessment, restoration and recovery,” Wittenberg said.
JFK Airport was set to reopen for some flights Wednesday; it wasn’t known when LaGuardia and Newark airports would reopen, making it difficult to get in and out of the New York area.
Nearly 20,000 amateur international runners need to get in the country. Another 30,000 or so American entrants must get to the starting line; the family and friends of runners must somehow find a way to their viewing spots.
“We have time on our side,” Wittenberg said Monday.
NYRR organizes about 50 events a year and has dealt with issues ranging from heavy snow to lightning to security concerns in the past.
“We’ve been through close to it all,” Wittenberg said.
Organizers expected to reschedule flights to get all the elite athletes to New York in time. Wittenberg hoped that most of the amateur international runners signed up would make it. The hours for number pickup will probably be extended for those who arrive late Saturday.
For runners who can’t get to New York, the deadline to withdraw from the race and guarantee a spot in next year’s event likely will be pushed back from Wednesday to Saturday. Under normal NYRR policy, organizers won’t refund entry fees, and runners would have to pay again next year.
The ceremonial finish-line painting scheduled for Wednesday was canceled, along with a news conference Tuesday. A children’s run Thursday was moved from Central Park to an indoor track, and the pavilion in the park has been taken down for the time being. Wittenberg said generators or backup systems were in place in key locations.
Extra time is always built into planning, and 700 part-time workers and 8,000 volunteers ensure the course can be set up quickly.
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