NEW YORK (AP) — Their race was called off, but marathoners were still on the move in New York on Sunday.
Hundreds of runners wearing marathon shirts and backpacks full of supplies took the ferry to hard-hit Staten Island and ran to stricken neighborhoods to help. Thousands of others poured into Central Park to put in 26.2 miles after the last-minute cancellation of the world's largest marathon because of Superstorm Sandy.
"A lot of people just wanted to finish what they started," said Lance Svendsen, who organized an alternative marathon called Run Anyway. By 8:45 a.m., his group had sent off five waves of runners from the marathon's official finish line, which had not yet been taken down. "It is amazing. My guess is about 600 people have left so far."
Italians stretched en masse near the Plaza Hotel. The Germans started from Columbus Circle. Everyone plunged into the park to pursue their own race. Some ran around the park clockwise, some counterclockwise, taking over startled dog walkers with a riot of color.
It was a throwback to the original New York City Marathon in 1970, which was run ragtag with 127 people and stayed completely within Central Park This time, some dropped off clothing and other supplies for storm victims.
This year's runners all are guaranteed entry into next year's race, but not everyone could be sure that chance would come.
"I'm in the military, and I could be deployed," said Ruben Arredondo, 36, of Los Angeles, who showed up outside the park at 6:45 a.m. to join a group called the Replacement Marathon, which had been organized online just hours before.
The morning surge surprised even some participants and their fans. Tracey Busch, of New Jersey, was near the finish line with a small cowbell in each hand, cheering on passing runners who weaved through the crowd of organizers, tourists and media.