By Liana B. Baker
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of runners in New York City are refusing to let a canceled marathon spoil their Sunday plans and are channeling months of preparation into informal runs intended to benefit victims of superstorm Sandy.
Amid criticism from victims of Monday's storm that the race would divert resources away from efforts to help flood-ravaged parts of the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday abruptly canceled Sunday's marathon. The event was expected to draw more than 40,000 runners to the city - including Kelly Rooney, a 31-year-old stay-at-home mother from Florida.
Rooney was at first irked that Bloomberg called off the marathon after insisting earlier in the week that it would go ahead in spite of Sandy, whose 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds and record surge of seawater devastated coastal communities and claimed at least 110 U.S. lives.
Rooney traveled with her husband and 6-year-old daughter in tow, while her parents flew in from Mexico to cheer her on.
By Saturday afternoon Rooney was over her disappointment and looking forward to a charity run on hard-hit Staten Island that she had found advertised on the Internet.
On Sunday, Rooney will be running with a backpack full of dog food, cat food, batteries and some water donated by her hotel, the Ritz-Carlton across from Central Park.
"I truthfully at this point don't care if I run, I just want to give this stuff out," she said.
The idea for the Staten Island run came to 46-year-old Jordan Metzl, a doctor of sports medicine, and his running friends just as the debate was heating up last week about whether storm-battered New York City should hold a marathon.
He was discouraged that the running community was being perceived so negatively when it holds so many races to raise money for a variety of causes.
Metzl is expecting more than 500 runners to show up on Sunday at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in Manhattan, including participants from Germany and Italy. U.S. rower Alison Cox, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, is also expected to participate.
The runners will take different routes across Staten Island and distribute supplies along the way.
Other informal runs will be held on Sunday that loop around Central Park, mimicking the original 1970 route of the New York City marathon.
Mindy Solkin, a running coach, already organized a five-mile run on Saturday that started at the marathon's finish line in Central Park.
She is now planning a 26.2 mile run on Sunday called "The Ad Hoc Marathon." Solkin and fellow coaches from The Running Center in Manhattan will be on hand at 9:00 a.m. ET (1400 GMT) with water and "power gels" to pass to runners.
Since Friday night, Solkin has also been scrambling to get some of the 50 runners she coaches registered in upcoming marathons in places such as Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Metzl, who has run 29 marathons in his life, said it would be pointless to let well-trained limbs go to waste.
"Initially we were just going to do a run to raise some money and then we thought, hey, we've got these legs that are ready to run 26 miles, why don't we actually run in Staten Island and get things that people need?" he said.
(Editing by Louis Charbonneau and Eric Walsh)
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