Lawrence runners surprised, disappointed by New York City Marathon cancellation

A man leaves the media center for the New York City Marathon in New York's Central Park, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg canceled the race Friday amid criticism stemming from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

Lawrence residents J. Jenkins and Grant Catloth were confident they’d be able to lace up their sneakers and run the New York City Marathon when they left Kansas City Thursday.

But Friday’s announcement that the marathon was canceled, less than two days before more than 40,000 people would participate in the 26.2-mile run, left the pair without a plan.

“It seemed like there was no way they were going to cancel it,” said Catloth, 24. “I never had any doubt in my mind.”

But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the decision to cancel the race amid stretched police resources and a growing public outcry against the marathon, which was scheduled to start in Staten Island, one of the boroughs hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.

“It is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination.”

But, he said, “We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event — even one as meaningful as this — to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.”

Jenkins, 40, said he was surprised and disappointed to hear the marathon was canceled.

“We wondered if the marathon would go forward, and we thought we received a definite ‘yes’ to that question,” said Jenkins, a manager at Gary Gribble’s Running Sports, 839 Massachusetts St. “The thing that disappoints me is that the decision could have been made sooner.”

Catloth, who works with Jenkins at Gary Gribble’s, said he felt Bloomberg’s last-minute decision was insensitive to runners who spent thousands of dollars — Jenkins estimated the trip cost more than $3,600 for him and his partner — and took time off work to come to New York.

“Runners are not exactly the type to hold down those $100,000 jobs,” Catloth said. “We planned for this thing financially and physically for half a year. All of a sudden, it’s gone.”

But both men said they knew parts of the city were in bad shape.

“As we were riding in from the airport, we passed lines blocks long of people holding gas cans to fill up,” Jenkins said.

Friday evening, marathon organizers said runners would be able to get refunds on their entry fees.

Catloth ran his first marathon last year in Chicago, and said he hoped to use the New York run as a springboard to complete the five major marathons — including Berlin, London and Boston — in five years. Jenkins said he has run marathons in Chicago and Eugene, Ore., and was looking forward to participating in what is arguably the world’s foremost marathon.

Jenkins said New Yorkers he talked to were split on whether to hold the race, saying the city was “really divided.”

“We’d run in to some people who would be excited for us and wish us well,” he said. “Invariably, there would be someone next to them who either very openly or perhaps a little more subtly would say the race shouldn’t go on.”

With a free weekend in New York, Jenkins said he hoped he and Catloth could jog through Central Park.

“I imagine we will go for a run. We need to keep training, because there’s always another race on the horizon,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.