NEW YORK — Their race was called off, but marathoners were still on the move in New York on Sunday.
Hundreds of runners wearing marathon shirts and backpacks full of supplies took the ferry to hard-hit Staten Island and ran to stricken neighborhoods to help. Thousands of others poured into Central Park to put in 26.2 miles after the last-minute cancellation of the world's largest marathon because of Hurricane Sandy.
"A lot of people just wanted to finish what they started," said Lance Svendsen, who organized an alternative marathon called Run Anyway. By 8:45 a.m., his group had sent off five waves of runners from the marathon's official finish line, which had not yet been taken down. "It is amazing. My guess is about 600 people have left so far."
Italians stretched en masse near the Plaza Hotel. The Germans started from Columbus Circle. Everyone plunged into the park to race. Some ran around the park clockwise, some counterclockwise, taking over startled dog walkers with a riot of color.
It was a throwback to the original New York City Marathon in 1970, which was run ragtag with 127 people and stayed completely within Central Park. This time, some dropped off clothing and other supplies for storm victims.
Instead of running his first marathon, Akil Defour of Brooklyn climbed 20 flights of stairs in a building without power or heat in Far Rockaway, Queens, to deliver water, blankets and peanut butter sandwiches.
"I knew I wanted to volunteer after they canceled the marathon," said Defour, 30, who put in five hours of work with his running team.
Mary Wittenberg, the president of the New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, helped deliver food to a Staten Island family whose house was heavily damaged. "There are so many more suffering in our community who need our collective, undivided attention," the NYRR said in a statement.