Jordan Metzl thought he'd be running in his 30th marathon today. Instead, the sports medicine doctor will jog through the streets of storm-ravaged Staten Island to deliver relief goods from his backpack.
Metzl, 46, received the news two nights ago that the New York Marathon was being canceled because of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy last week.
"Our first reaction was it's a shame and then we wondered what can we start to do to help," said Metzl, a physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. "Let's run into Staten Island."
Staten Island was one of the hardest hit areas when Superstorm Sandy reached New York, accounting for about half the city's 41 fatalities.
By 1 a.m. yesterday, Metzl, who still hadn't taken off his white coat after work, had helped create the New York Runners in Support of Staten Island on Facebook. When he awoke in the morning, the site had more than 3,000 hits.
Today as many as 500 runners, all wearing orange and carrying backpacks stuffed with essentials such as batteries, prepaid mobile phones, gift cards, baby wipes, personal hygiene items, medicine, garbage bags, hats and gloves, traveled on the 8:30 a.m. ferry to Staten Island.
"We have our courses mapped out and we'll use our legs to do charitable work," Metzl said. "The running community is the most charitable community I know. People say runners are selfish, but that's not true. Runners are always running for a cause."
A further 500 or so runners waited at the ferry terminal for later crossings, while other marathoners ran wearing their numbers in Central Park and along the Hudson River bike trail.
Metzl spent about $250 at the local store on basic items.
"We're taking the ferry over and we hope to get a good reception on the other side," he said.
Metzl, who had expected to run 26.2 miles (42 kilometers) in the marathon, figures he'll probably cover about 15 miles through the streets of Staten Island. With a 15-pound (6.8 kilogram) backpack, the course will be more challenging.
"That's only a minor inconvenience," he said. "Marathon No. 30 is going to have to wait."