NEW YORK — The blue and orange finish line is in place in Central Park, no superstorm debris in sight.
Little else is normal with the New York City Marathon.
The course will be the same, since there was little damage to it, but getting to the finish line could still be an adventure for runners from outlying areas.
Such is life in Sandy’s aftermath — disrupted trains, planes, buses and ferries, flooded buildings, blocked roads and knocked-out power.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw none of this as insurmountable and defended the decision to hold the race, insisting resources wouldn’t be diverted from storm victims. He noted Thursday that electricity was expected to be restored to all of Manhattan by race day Sunday, freeing up “up an enormous number of police.”
“This city is a city where we have to go on,” he said.
City Council member Domenic Recchia Jr., however, called plans to hold the race “just wrong” in light of the ongoing misery among residents with no food, shelter or electricity.
The marathon brings an estimated $340 million into the city, and race organizers say some of it will be used for recovery efforts. New York Road Runners, which operates the event, will donate $1 million to the fund and said more than $1.5 million in pledges already had been secured from sponsors.
It was still unclear whether runners would get to the start by bus or ferry. NYRR President Mary Wittenberg said organizers commissioned buses to transport runners to Staten Island, but the city wanted to use the ferry, as in the past. Bloomberg expected full ferry service to resume by Saturday.
Runners from Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and New Jersey, with trouble reaching Manhattan, will be bused directly from those areas to the start. Organizers planned to release complete details on transportation Friday.
Many of the nearly 30,000 out-of-town entrants were still scrambling to get to New York, aided somewhat by the reopening of the area’s three major airports. Wittenberg predicted more than 8,000 of the 47,500 entrants originally expected won’t make it.
Kenyan runners, including men’s favorites Wilson Kipsang and Moses Mosop, flew from Nairobi to London to Boston, then drove to New York, arriving late Wednesday.
Favorites in the women’s race include Olympic gold medalist Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia, bronze medalist Tatyana Arkhipova of Russia and world champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya.
The course winds from Staten Island to Brooklyn, then Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and back into Manhattan for the finish in Central Park. The park was still closed Thursday, but will be ready by Sunday. The route has never included areas hit hard by flooding, such as Coney Island and Lower Manhattan
Meantime, many locals prepared for the race while coping with the messes Sandy left behind. For example, Latif Peracha was evacuated from the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca. While his building is flooded, his sixth-floor apartment is fine but he can’t move back until next Thursday at the earliest.
Meantime, he is staying with a friend.
He knew his first marathon was going to be special; now he believes it’s so much more.
“I think it’ll be a great testament to the city’s resilience,” he said.
Dave Reeder was supposed to fly from Denver to LaGuardia on Thursday with his wife and two children. Then they saw the photos of the flooded airport. Should they still try to make the trip?
The race felt a bit “frivolous,” he said.
Hearing Bloomberg on TV convinced him to try and he hoped to volunteer in relief efforts while in New York.
His family planned to watch from three points along the course, but subway closures may prevent it.
If they can’t, it has practical implications for Reeder: He has type 1 diabetes, and his wife carries supplies he might need during the race. Reeder is running as part of Team JDRF, raising money for type 1 diabetes research. Even though he knows his sponsors wouldn’t ask for their money back, he’ll run in Los Angeles next week just in case he doesn’t make it to this race. As of Thursday, he was still heading East.
Julie Culley of Clinton, N.J., was stranded in Arlington, Va., when the storm hit. It turned out to be a blessing because she had power and could train.
An Olympian in the 5,000 meters, Culley is making her marathon debut. Her parents own a vacation home on Long Beach Island on the Jersey shore, which was rocked hard by Sandy.
“I think our family probably escaped the worst of it,” said Culley, whose parents were in Clinton when the storm hit. “I’ve seen terrible pictures of houses uprooted out of their foundations and houses completely knocked out.”
They told her if Long Beach Island opens up, they’ll go there and watch her on TV.
“Now that we know for the most part what the damage is and the storm’s over,” Culley said, “and we can put everything behind us and focus on the recovery effort in the state, I think now it’s time to shift focus toward the marathon again.”
Molly Pritz, the top American woman in last year’s race with a 12th-place finish, knew she wouldn’t be able to fly out of Detroit on Tuesday, so she decided to drive. Problem: She’s 24 and too young to rent a car. (25 is the minimum age at most agencies.) So her mother drove her.
What should have been an 11-hour ride took nearly 14 because of two accidents in Pennsylvania. But as they came into New York, the weather was clear and the roads empty.
“That’s because no one else is an idiot driving into the hurricane,” Mom said.