After canceling the 2012 ING New York City Marathon, Mary Wittenberg apologized to athletes and acknowledged that she and other officials made hasty decisions.
Wittenberg is the president and chief operating officer of New York Road Runners, which is the association responsible for putting on the New York City Marathon.
"We are all really sorry to the runners who have come from around the world, and around the nation, and around the city," Wittenberg said during a press conference on Nov. 2.
During that press conference, Wittenberg stood with New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson and New York Road Runners Chairman of the Board George Hirsch as she announced that the 2012 New York City Marathon would not happen.
The decision was made to cancel the race after a public backlash criticized Wittenberg, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials for continuing with the race in the face of issues resulting from Hurricane Sandy.
On Oct. 29, before the storm hit, Wittenberg talked to the media via a teleconference and said that the race would be likely to continue. The organization had time on it's side, she said, and she expected that the race would be contested.
On Oct. 31, she and Bloomberg reiterated their position, saying that the race would help to bring financial gains into the city while raising morale and bringing attention to the needs of New Yorkers affected by the storm. All the while, opposition mounted as runners and the media alike began to criticize officials for potentially diverting resources from the rescue and clean-up effort in favor of the race.
"Last Monday, I said on a conference call before the storm started that time was on our side, and today I say we ran out of time," Wittenberg said during the press conference on Nov. 2. "… We learned a lot of different things in the last few days because we were trying to give clarity of decision and help people plan. We pushed hard to decisions that if we had a little more time, maybe would have stepped back from a little bit."
Wolfson called the race a "painful distraction" that became "divisive instead of unifying." Those in the mayor's office relied on their experience after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- when the race went on and signaled to the world that New York City was back, he said -- in order to help make the original decision to contest the marathon.
But instead of drawing New Yorkers and athletes together, the continuation of the race drew them apart.
"The timeline here was so compressed that it would have been impossible at the beginning of the week to know exactly what public sentiment would have been, and it was clear over the course of the week that the public sentiment changed," Wolfson said during the press conference. "So I think you would have (had to be) something of a soothsayer around here at the beginning of the week to know how the week would play out."
The New York City Marathon has been run for the past 42 consecutive years.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime fan of Olympic sports. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46
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- Mary Wittenberg
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