Marathoners quickly found ways to redirect their energies. Jordan Metzl, a sports surgeon and marathoner, created a Facebook page urging runners to head to Staten Island with donated material. Marthoners Jaclynn Larington and Sarah Hartmann started NYCMore2012.org, to connect and organize volunteers in the worst-hit communities. "The response has been amazing," said Larington. "I think a lot of good will come out of this." (On what would have been race day an estimated 10,000 runners would put their energies into relief work.)
But Culley's suspicion that the marathon was being unduly scapegoated had some merit. At the Giants-Steelers game on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., few thought it was too early to return to sports. Prevailing opinion was that the game was serving the same reunification duty that had been the inspiration for that first five-borough race.
"Having sports events is great," said Pete Moog, a retired NYPD detective who put in 23 years on the force. He's from Tottenville, on devastated Staten Island. For three days last week he took his tailgating grill and a school bus painted Giants blue and fed the hungry in his hometown.
"After 9/11 going back to sports was to show the terrorists that we weren't going to cave to anything," he said. "This shows how resilient we are as Americans."
The New York City Marathon and its tens of thousands of runners are counting on that. "Next year," says Wittenberg. "Next year it will be the greatest ever."
Kenny Moore is a former senior writer for SI and a two-time U.S. Olympic marathoner.