NEW YORK, N.Y. - New York City Marathon organizers expect superstorm Sandy to have little effect on Sunday's race.
"We're extraordinarily lucky the marathon is not today," New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said during a conference call Monday as wind and rain started to batter the city.
Instead, she said, "we have time on our side" — enough to prepare the course and for runners to travel to the city after the storm passes through.
And if flooding or other damage affects the course or logistics, NYRR has contingency plans every year to adjust to any potential problems.
The route through the five boroughs mostly avoids areas considered at highest risk for flooding. The biggest concerns centre on getting entrants their numbers and to the starting line on Staten Island.
The ferry buildings used by about half the runners to travel from Manhattan to the start are in at-risk areas. Many other entrants take buses through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which could flood. The Javits Center, where runners pick up their numbers, also is in an affected area.
The storm could knock down trees and limbs in Central Park, where the 26.2-mile race finishes. Wittenberg noted that the city was able to clear the park in time for last year's race a week after a freak snowstorm caused extensive damage.
NYRR organizes about 50 events a year and has dealt with obstacles ranging from heavy snow to lightning to security concerns.
"We've been through close to it all," Wittenberg said.
Organizers expect to reschedule flights to get all the elite athletes to New York early. And Wittenberg was confident that most of the nearly 20,000 amateur international runners signed up would make it in time. The hours for number pickup will probably be extended for those who arrive late Saturday.
For runners who can't get to New York, the deadline to withdraw from the race and guarantee a spot in next year's event likely will be pushed back from Wednesday to Saturday. Race organizers won't refund entry fees, and runners would have to pay again next year under normal race policy.
The ceremonial finish-line painting scheduled for Wednesday has been cancelled, along with a news conference Tuesday. A children's run Thursday has been moved from Central Park to an indoor track, and the pavilion in the park has been taken down for the time being. If power is lost, generators or backup systems are in key locations.
Otherwise, Wittenberg expects race week will look much the same to New Yorkers and competitors. Extra time is always built into planning, and 700 part-time workers and 8,000 volunteers ensure the course can be set up quickly.
"We remain extremely confident we will have an amazing weekend," she said.
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