Some 700 marathon refugees will get 26.2 miles of New Hampshire’s remaining foliage instead of New York’s concrete jungle as they run the Manchester City Marathon on Sunday.
The New York City Marathon became a last-minute casualty of Hurricane Sandy when organizers and Mayor Michael Bloomberg canceled the race Friday afternoon, saying it should not be held in a city still struggling to recover. The cancellation left scores of runners from all over the world scrambling for a way to accomplish a goal months in the making.
Many turned their attention to the Granite State, hoping race directors could squeeze them in.
“People have been training for months. People have raised $5,000, $10,000 for certain charities,” said Sarah Normand, director of the Manchester City Marathon. “I would hope if there was some devastation in our area and people put in so much effort to train, other races would be accommodating.”
She reopened registration for the marathon, which had closed Thursday, allowing runners to register until 7 p.m. Saturday. The original limit of 2,000 participants was expected to balloon to 2,700, meaning lots of extra water, power drinks, food, and police.
It also means late registrants will wear last year’s blue race shirt instead of this year’s yellow one. But runners are OK with sporting last year’s fashion as long as they get to run.
“I felt compelled to see it through,” said Alli DeStefano of Brighton, who was supposed to run in New York.
The 24-year-old teacher raised more than $3,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital’s “Miles for Miracles” program. Her patient partner, a 2-year-old who has been in and out of the hospital most of his life, was her motivation.
“How much he’s had to endure, for a 2-year-old boy, is incredible,” she said. “So running a marathon and fund-raising seemed like the least I could do.”
DeStefano was torn after Sandy wreaked havoc on New York, leaving the place she and her boyfriend planned to stay without water or electricity. She didn’t want to be an extra burden on relief efforts but she wanted to fulfill her promise.
“How could I, as a marathon runner, receive a drink from a water station along the course knowing that a block away, citizens of New York did not have that luxury?” she asked on her blog chronicling 18 weeks of training for what will be her fourth marathon. But, she wrote, “I wanted to move forward . . . because I would be doing it for others. It wasn’t a race I was doing for myself.”
Then, she got word Friday that the New York City Marathon was canceled. The same day, a friend told her about the Manchester City Marathon, which comes with the added bonus of being held in her home state. So, her family will be able to cheer her on from the race course, which takes runners through Manchester’s mill yards, past Lake Massabesic, and over several paved, off-road walking trails.
“I don’t think people will be disappointed,” said Betsy Coco, manager of the Runner’s Alley store in Manchester. “It’s definitely a different experience than New York, a smaller experience.”Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.