A reader writes:
I agree with your reader who believes that much of the criticism of the marathon was misplaced. But I believe there's one more critical element: Marathons are symbols. Part of the reason that those of us who run marathons get such a rush from them is that we know they mean more than thousands of individual athletic acts. But symbols are abstract, and can come to represent in ways we do not intend. ;The NYC Marathon came to represent frivolity in the face of suffering, even if the rationale for that view is, for all the reasons your reader cites, not properly informed. For that reason alone, and even for the sake of the athletes themselves, this event needed to be cancelled.
You should write an update about what happened yesterday. When they cancelled the marathon, runners quickly self-organized on social media. They formed a couple of groups. One collected supplies, put them in backpacks, got on the ferry and then ran the supplies house to house in Staten Island. That was about 500-1000 runners, and by all accounts, they were amazing.
A second, larger group gathered in Central Park, set up donation stations and also collected supplies and money. They then went ahead and ran 26.2 miles on the original marathon course, four loops around the park. I was part of that second group, and it was awe-inspiring. Thousands of runners from around the world, all carrying their own supplies and cleaning up after themselves, in a do-it-yourself marathon, fulfilling their commitments to charities, families, friends, themselves. And New Yorkers came out to cheer and hand out water. I was moved to tears several times, and stopped often to walk and take pictures. Meanwhile, I followed on Facebook several other groups of runners in other places-Boston, for example-who couldn't make it had deferred their entries, and also ran 26.2 just to show solidarity with New York. It was a day in which the American spirit rose up like I haven't seen it since right after 9/11, and isn't it fitting that once again that spirit found its animating force in New York City.
(Photo: Runner Joselyn Fine, 34, who would have run the ING New York City Marathon, spends the afternoon volunteering by unloading and organizing emergency supplies near Midland Beach on November 4, 2012. By Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty Images)