The annual New York marathon, estimated to be the largest race of its kind in the world, will go ahead on Sunday despite the terrorist truck attack in the city on Tuesday night that killed eight people.
Race organizers declared on Tuesday night that the event would go on, a few hours after a man drove a rented truck down the bicycle lane on the west side of Manhattan, plowing into cyclists and joggers.
The race was not canceled in 2001, taking place within two months of the worst terrorist attack in New York’s history, when hijackers flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, killing almost 3,000 people. That tragedy took place a handful of city blocks from where pedestrians and cyclists were hit on Tuesday. The suspect was shot and wounded by police and is hospitalized under heavy guard.
But despite a shaken public, the marathon will begin as planned on 5 November, when more than 50,000 participants will begin streaming over the long road bridge that connects Staten Island to Brooklyn, at 8.30am.
The event will pose an enormous challenge as participants wind along the route that takes in all five of the city’s boroughs and is expected to be watched by more than a million spectators on the streets and many millions on TV worldwide.
At a press conference on Tuesday evening two hours after the truck attack, New York state governor Andrew Cuomo urged New Yorkers to “be New Yorkers and live your life. Do not let them deter us.”
Thousands turned out for the famous Halloween Parade on Tuesday evening and many told the Guardian they were even more determined to attend the event than usual. They marched through Greenwich Village, where a mile of cycle path was cordoned off and still a scene of carnage with mangled bikes and the wrecked truck present.
The New York Road Runners, a community running group that organizes the annual city marathon, said that some publicity events this week in the run-up to the race will be canceled out of respect for Tuesday’s tragedy, but that the event itself will go ahead.
A statement from the organizers on Tuesday evening extended sympathy to the victims of the truck attack and said they were “monitoring the situation closely with our city, state and federal agency partners”, with the safety and security of runners and spectators, staff and volunteers being the top priority. But there was no suggestion that the event should be postponed or canceled.
More than 51,000 participants completed the race last year, 98.8% of those who started, and the average time for the 26.2-mile race was four and a half hours.
Participants using wheelchairs will begin the event at 8.30am on Sunday as they roll across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island, followed by the professional women then the professional men shortly after 9am, then the general public.
The marathon finishes in Central Park in Manhattan, after winding through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.