NYC marathon to go on despite storm, decision sparks debate


(CBS News) New York City was battered by superstorm Sandy this week but the New York City Marathon is set to go on as planned on Sunday. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that the race through the five boroughs will take place over the weekend, despite the flooding, power outages, and transit disruptions throughout the city.

"We have to have an economy. There are a lot of people who come here," Bloomberg said, defending the decision. "It's a great event for New York."

Molly Pritz, a top American female finisher at last year's NYC marathon plans to compete on Sunday, but this year, her biggest struggle might be just getting to the starting line.

"It's been just a race to get here," Pritz told CBS News' Erin Moriarty. "Just the devastation of it left me in shock. You never know how hard it's going to hit until it hits land."

Clean-up crews are working to make the pavement passible and sanitation workers are busy clearing the starting line on Staten Island, where some borough residents remain missing.

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In Brooklyn, runners will pass buildings that were submerged just days before and in Queens they will be within miles of a neighborhood that lost 100 homes to fire and flood.

Typically, 47,000 athletes from around the world compete in the race and 8,000 volunteers are on-hand to deal with the volume of runners and their needs. 

And while some argue that it will stretch city and police resources during a time of need, CBS News' John Miller, a former spokesman for the NYPD, called the race "a point of pride for the city" and said that during times like this, city leaders confer with the mayor's office to answer the question, "Who are we as a city?" To that end, Miller said, "We are a city that will be unbowed by any event," and that much like the marathoners themselves the city prides itself on "working through the pain."

Miller also added that luckily, although the race starts in storm-wrecked Staten Island, it "starts on the bridge, so it leaves Staten Island, which has been terribly affected."

And speaking to the capability of the NYPD, Miller admits it will be a strain but said, "But this is a huge department. This is 35,000 cops...and traffic enforcement agents" who have an "off the shelf plan," for the marathon that they have orchestrated for years.

"The key is, they know they can do it, they know they're stretched, and they know that the cops in the department are willing to do it."

Lastly, Miller added, "It could be an uplifting event" during a time when many New Yorkers could use a little inspiration.