NEW YORK — Adam Frye got the news as he was headed toward the Javits Center on Friday to pick up his packet of material for the New York City Marathon.
The race was canceled. Blame it on Sandy.
“I just flew out today,” said Frye, who lives in St. Paul, Minn. “I think I’m a little bit shocked. I never really thought they would cancel it. I kind of feel like they waited to cancel it until people like me had already come so we could spend our money.”
He was out $255 for the race fee and $300 for the flight.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg bowed to pressure and called off Sunday’s race after promising repeatedly all week that it would be held.
“This race is a very special one for me and millions of people around the world, but I understand why it cannot be held under the current circumstances,” said Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 men’s champion. “Any inconveniences the cancellation causes me or the thousands of runners who trained and traveled for this race pales in comparison to the challenges faced by people in NYC and its vicinity in the aftermath of Sandy. New York is my favorite place to race, so I will be back to participate in other events soon.”
As for the amateur runners, Nikki Davies of London arrived Friday looking forward to the race.
“I can understand not wanting to run through devastated parts of the city,” she said. “I thought if they cancel it, they’d cancel it earlier.”
But she plans to stay in New York for 10 days. On her agenda?
“A lot of sightseeing,” she said.
On Staten Island, one of the hardest-hit areas and where the race was to start, people were waiting for gasoline on Friday night.
“I think we have other priorities to deal with at this point, and it’s just not necessary to have at this time,” John Sarracco said. “It’s something we can maybe look forward to next year.”
The marathon usually is a civic celebration. Not just for elite runners, the race attracts crowds that gather in the five boroughs to cheer family and friends, hold up encouraging posters, distribute water cups and drape silver wraps around the shoulders of the finishers.
In buildings along the route, there are untold numbers of parties, ranging from catered feasts to grilled burgers.
Thousands lined Central Park as Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya set a course record last year in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 6 seconds. By the time last-place finisher Mouldi Fehri of France was nearing the end in 9:31:43, traffic had reopened on Central Park South and people hardly took notice.
Sue Ann Ng Martinez of Old Bridge, N.J., finished 46,535th and next to last, the final woman across the line in 2011. This year, she was focused on victims trying to copy with their losses.
“I’m more concerned about the people in Staten Island,” Martinez said.
People from all over the globe come to New York for the race. Retired Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar had a 4:19 time last year in his first marathon and trained four months this time hoping to improve Sunday. His wife and two children traveled with him from Amsterdam on Thursday and his family planned to run in a 5K on Saturday.
“When you see the relief effort at the moment and people without water and electricity and certain basic needs, it’s probably for the better to get the resources to the people who really need it,” he said after attending the New York Knicks’ opener against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
Some complained about the timing.
“I agree that canceling it was the right move, but it the decision should have been made immediately,” said Joel Schrock, who was hosting Frye for the weekend. “It’s frustrating that they waited so long.”
Some runners at the New Yorker Hotel in midtown — just above the blackout zone caused by the superstorm — were in the lobby crying when they learned the race was off. One person was curled up on a couch, sobbing.
“We spend a year on this,” said Gisela Clausen of Munich. “We don’t eat what we want. We don’t drink what we want. And we’re on the streets for hours. We live for this marathon, but we understand.”
Roberto Dell’Olmo, from Vercelli in northern Italy, said he “would like that the money I give from the marathon goes to victims.”
Linda Corbitt of San Francisco was walking to the Javits Center with her daughter when she heard the race was scrapped. Corbitt has leukemia and her daughter planned to run to raise money for a cure.
“I’m sad for the people who trained so hard for many, many months but we understand why the decision was made,” Corbitt said. “A lot of people are in pain.”