The cancellation of the NY Marathon has become a huge story and a giant pile of shit. Runners in NYC have been damaged by how this was handled. Once again NYRR steps in a mess of their own making.
The problem was not the decision but the timing and lack of ability to communicate; the problem was not what they did but how they did it; the problem is the lack of any sense of connection to the community.
When I showed up at the expo on Thursday, having walked there from the blackout zone, to find not one outlet available for blacked out New Yorkers to charge their phones, it was clear that NYRR had not given any thought to the storm's impact on us, the members/New Yorkers. The continued statements that the marathon would not have diverted any resources or in any way hampered relief efforts underscores that disconnect.
Now that the race has been cancelled (and it should have been cancelled that's the only thing they did right in this entire mess), NYRR should be taking an active role in organizing runners to assist those in need instead of just saying "come to the expo, buy crap and donate it." Instead, other than badly worded emails that further dig them into a hole, there is radio silence from the NYRR leadership. (if you are looking for ways to help, there is a rather comprehensive list of grassroots groups that need help online at https://docs.google.com/document/d/13siHiBucoILQs6Pmdk0Ew2K9Oi7ujblN4OjQ... )
Once again, there is a failure of leadership and communication. Mary Wittenberg is not a leader or organizer, she might be in charge but she is not a leader.
An effective leader would have told everyone before the storm that she would do everything possible to make sure the race happened but also given clear warning that there was a good chance it would not, not build unrealistic expectations that it would for certain happen.
Then as soon as the magnitude of destruction was known, an effective leader would have stated clearly and in a timely way that there was no way for the race to continue, allowing out of town travelers to change their plans.
An effective leader would have seen that it was a no win situation and taken the lead and communicated effectively to minimize the damage to the organization, not waited for the last minute when there was already a large public outcry.
At that moment, NYRR should have taken an active role in connecting runners with local organizations in need of volunteers. That would have left fewer people upset and would have raised the image of runners in the eyes of all New Yorkers.
When the race was finally cancelled, the communication should have contained some level of apology for not acting faster. It should have taken responsibility, not shifted blame to "the media."
Instead she took a path that has everyone upset and has made runners look like a bunch of self-important privileged whiners.
I hope it has become clear to all that it is time for a change at NYRR. Mismanagement Mary needs to step down for the good of the New York City running community.
slightly redundant update, Nov 9
I posted this to the NYRR facebook page and a few people contacted me privately and suggested I add it to this rant, so here you go.
It seems to me that the NYRR has lost its way. Under Mary's leadership it has forgotten what it is to be a membership organization. It has become more centralized; members and running clubs that used to have a voice are now just paying money for a discount on races.
Part of this is reflected in the focus on the marathon. The NYRR propaganda now states that "everything else is just a warmup for the marathon."
That's insulting to us middle distance runners. That's insulting to the folks that run the other races because we love them. It shows that the entire focus of the organization has become the Marathon, the one big money maker and high profile race.
Once, sponsors were sought for races to facilitate the mission of the organization: to enhance the lives of runners in NYC. Now membership is sought so it can be sold to the sponsors (and sponsors are being sought not for individual races, but on a more large scale and generic way). It's like the NYRR has become facebook, we the members are the value that is sold to the sponsors for profit.
The NYRR is no longer for the runners; it's no longer a membership organization; it's now more of like a sporting goods store that has a discount club that you join to get a discount. A membership organization makes it decisions based on what's best for the membership as a whole; a membership organization gives members a voice. NYRR is a corporation hiding behind the tax breaks of its non-profit status.
Mary should have been thinking about the image of the NYRR as a whole and not just making the marathon happen.
She should have given consideration to the NYRR members and other New Yorkers that were impacted by the storm, and thought about how they would be negatively impacted by thousands of people traveling to town for a race that was not going to happen. She should have understood the media image of tens of thousands of runners moving through blacked out areas, closing streets that could have been used by relief efforts, even if the Mayor was not. That's her job. She failed.
The race should have been cancelled much earlier. The idea that the NYRR keeps putting out there, that somehow the Post had whipped New Yorkers into a frenzy and that we were going to be attacked by hordes of angry thugs is just not in touch with reality.
Mismanagement Mary should have acted with the larger picture in mind, she did not. She should have been a leader in a time of crisis, she was not. She should do what's right and step down (since the dissenting members of the Board have been pushed out since she took over, there's no chance of her being fired by the Board, our only hope is appealing to her sense of what is right for the long term health of the organization as a whole.
The NYRR's lack of ability to communicate, and get ahead of this story and come out looking good is her fault. For that, and her other mismanagement moments in the past year, she should step down for the good of the organization.
Anyone know if Kathrine Switzer is looking for a job? I'd love to see her drafted to take over the helm at NYRR.