Rotorua women who had poured everything in to race in this year's New York Marathon burst into tears when news broke the race had been cancelled at late notice because of the clean-up after Superstorm Sandy.
Rotorua's Aroha Nikora and Luanna George spoke to The Daily Post yesterday from New York, saying they were devastated they didn't get to fulfil their dreams and are upset race organisers didn't call off the event earlier.
After being told the world's most famous road race was going ahead, the runners couldn't believe it when they heard the city's mayor had been forced to cancel the event because of safety concerns and a need for emergency services staff to help in the clean-up, rather than patrol the marathon.
Sandy ripped through the West Coast of the United States on Monday last week (United States time). On Wednesday, runners were assured the event would go ahead but that decision was reversed on Friday night, less than two days before the race.
Mrs Nikora, who was to run the event with Rotorua's Mere Murray and her twin sister, Dale Thorby from Waiouru, said she was in her hotel lift when someone told her. She went back to the lobby and saw other runners from all over the world standing around hugging each other and crying.
"We were just so devastated. I had a big cry."
Mrs Nikora said they had trained for nine months, been on the marathon's waiting list for two years, and had paid about $8000 each at least to make the trip.
While she understood the reason, she said the decision should have been made earlier.
She said there was speculation among the runners the decision was left to the last minute to generate more income from the visitors to the broken city.
"We could have made other arrangements. Some New Zealanders only came in on Friday night and were greeted with the news it was cancelled." She said the storm had left the city in a mess.
"It has really affected the people. We want to do the marathon feeling elated and we want the support of all the city. It wouldn't have been the same. We can understand that it is unsafe and the media are saying over here it was a bit immoral that we run ... We didn't want to be running in that type of atmosphere."
The runners were to wear their country's T-shirts today and wave their flags during a light run/walk through Central Park.
Ms George, who was at the event with fellow Rotorua runner Louise Rickard, said she was at the registration centre when she heard the announcement on the television.
"I burst into tears. I was in shock.
"I wasn't the only one. There were heaps of us standing there with tears in our eyes."
She said she was so devastated, she got lost on the way back to her hotel, which should have been a 20-minute walk.
"I lost my bearings. It took me 1 hours. I was sobbing and crying all the way to the hotel."
She said she didn't normally drink much alcohol, but went to a bar across the road from her hotel, ordered a hamburger and fries and got merry.
"We were all drinking, crying and laughing all night. The drinks were pouring."
Both women said they intended to return to New York to finish the marathon either next year or the year after.