Never mind the cancellation. Here comes the marathon.
Thousands of runners poured into New York City’s Central Park on Sunday morning to do what they had prepared so long to do -- put in 26.2 miles.
That’s despite the abrupt announcement Friday evening that the world’s largest marathon had been called off because of Hurricane Sandy.
Hundreds of other runners, wearing their marathon shirts and backpacks full of supplies, took the ferry to hard-hit Staten Island and ran to hard-hit neighborhoods to help.
Shortly after dawn, groups of runners started gathering on the edges of Central Park to warm up, take photos and drop off clothing and other items for storm victims.
“A lot of people just wanted to finish what they started,” said Lance Svendsen, who organized an alternative marathon called Run Anyway. By 8:45 a.m., his group had sent off five waves of runners from the marathon’s official finish line, which had not yet been taken down. “It is amazing. My guess is about 600 people have left so far.”
It was a throwback to the original New York City Marathon in 1970, which was run ragtag with 127 people and stayed completely within Central Park.
With the cancellation, this year’s runners all are guaranteed entry into next year’s race, but not everyone could be sure that chance would come.
“I’m in the military, and I could be deployed,” said Ruben Arredondo, 36, of Los Angeles, who showed up outside the park at 6:45 a.m. to join a group called the Replacement Marathon, which had been organized online just hours before.
Many runners were finding a way to volunteer for storm victims. On the steps of a statue just outside the park at Columbus Circle, a newly created grassroots group called Run4All was collecting donations in cardboard boxes.
“A lot of people brought extra clothes,” said Gabriella Moreno, 23, from Mexico. She was amazed by the waves of runners but understood.
“If you’ve shaped your life around something for so long, what’s stopping you?” she said.
One man honked and yelled, “There’s no marathon! Go home!” But people standing outside one deli yelled encouragement: “Thank you, ladies!” “God is good!”
Mary Wittenberg, the president of the New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, helped deliver food to a Staten Island family whose house was heavily damaged.