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NEW YORK -- The New York City Marathon is a go for Sunday, and while logistical questions persist one thing is certain: The 26-mile route will have a disaster for a backdrop.
And a debate.
"I think some people said you shouldn't run the marathon," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news briefing Wednesday. "There's an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy. There's lots of people that have come here. It's a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you've got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind."
The marathon brings an estimated $340 million in economic impact to the city. Organizers will also use it as a backdrop to raise money for recovery efforts. Race organizer NYRR will donate $1 million to the fund and said more than $1.5 million in pledges already had been secured from sponsors.
Race organizers were still trying to assess how widespread damage from hurricane Sandy might affect plans, including getting runners into the city to transporting them to the start line on Staten Island. Easing their worries a bit was news that 14 of the city's 23 subway lines were expected to be operating by Thursday morning -- though none below 34th Street, an area that includes the city's financial district and many tourist sites.
And there were runners like Josh Maio who felt torn about whether the race should go on.
"It pulls resources and focus away from people in need," said Maio, who dropped out due to an injury but is coaching about 75 runners.
While he agrees the race is a boost to local businesses, he is uncomfortable with the city devoting so much to an "extracurricular" event.
Bloomberg said Sunday's marathon won't divert resources from victims of Sandy's devastation.
Bloomberg responded to criticism of his decision to hold the race at a news briefing Thursday. He noted that electricity is expected to be back on in downtown Manhattan by Sunday, freeing up an "enormous number of police."
He says the sanitation workers and fire fighters who are aiding storm victims are not involved in the marathon.
Bloomberg says "this city is a city where we have to go on."New York Road Runners president Mary Wittenberg said organizers planned to use more private contractors than past years to reduce the strain on city services.
She compared this year's race to the 2001 marathon, held seven weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as a way to inspire residents and show the world the city's resilience.
"We're talking about something much more than a foot race," Wittenberg said before the mayor made his announcement, adding, "what's really clear is not only does the marathon celebrate the essence of the city, but it's good for the city."
Wittenberg expects the field will be smaller than the 47,500 who ran last year because some entrants can't make it to New York, but said so far organizers had received no more cancellations than normal.
Race organizers were rescheduling the elite runners' flights to get them into New York on schedule.
Top American Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 men's champion, regards the marathon as "something positive ... because it will be motivation to say, 'Look what happened, and we'll put on the race, and we'll give them a good show."
Meantime, traffic choked city streets as residents tried to return to work. Two of three major airports in New York area re-opened with limited flights and limited commuter rail service resumed.
It's a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you've got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.” -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Utilities say it could be days before power is fully restored in the city and on Long Island.
The course mostly avoids areas hit hardest by flooding. Getting everyone to the start on Staten Island could be the biggest challenge if two usual methods -- the ferry and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel -- are still closed. Organizers are working on contingency plans.
Once under way, runners will cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn. The route then winds through the borough and over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. The Queensboro Bridge will bring the runners into Manhattan's East Side. After a brief swing through the Bronx, they finish in Central Park, which was closed Wednesday. Some 250 mature trees inside the park were felled by the storm.
The 43rd edition of the marathon is set to include three Olympic medalists and the reigning women's world champion.
Kenya's Wilson Kipsang won bronze in the Olympic men's marathon. His challengers include 2011 Chicago Marathon champ Moses Mosop of Kenya and 2010 New York winner Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia's Tiki Gelana won gold and Russia's Tatyana Arkhipova was third in the women's race in London. Edna Kiplagat of Kenya won a world title a year earlier.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.