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Post-Hurricane Sandy inspiration found in athletes like Eli Manning and Meb Keflezighi

hughesJed040512_optBY JED HUGHES
COMMENTARY

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which left millions throughout our area without electricity and caused widespread destruction, the New York City Marathon was wisely postponed. Mayor Mike Bloomberg had hoped that the race, which attracts runners from across the globe, could be held as planned. However, given the grave circumstances facing countless families and media outcry, he wisely recanted. Holding the race would have taken vital public servants away from the task of helping people whose lives have been changed forever by Sandy's fury.

It was a tough call, but Bloomberg made the right decision. The marathon attracts more than 40,000 participants and is viewed by more than 300 million people worldwide. Additionally, the 26.2 mile race is a huge revenue booster for the city's coffers -- an estimated $340 million in revenue, according AECOM, a consulting firm employed by the race organizers. The race also raises more than $24 million for a variety of charities, thanks to sponsored runners and other cause-marketing efforts.

A few resourceful individuals set a "Run Anyway" Facebook page, and 2,000 runners lapped Central Park four times to complete 26.2 miles. This was a throwback to the marathon's early days before it became a five-borough event. Other runners opted to utilize their unexpected free time in a helpful way. Thousands of runners traveled to Staten Island and aided residents by bringing them water, t-shirts and blankets or by helping them sort through their damaged homes. Volunteers included 2009 champ Meb Keflezighi, who said he wanted to do something positive since he could not run. By doing so, he proved to be a winner in 2012.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning was seen surveying damage and visiting hurricane victims this week. The Giants also announced a monetary donation.

Natural disasters and tragedies have postponed major sporting events in the past, of course. The New Orleans Saints lost the Superdome as their home for the season due to devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Major League Baseball, the NFL and the Ryder Cup all postponed activities following the attacks on September 11th, 2001.

However, sports also help people overcome adversity. Mets and Yankees players volunteered to work alongside rescue and recovery workers at the World Trade Center. A few days later, Mike Piazza's emotional game-winning home run during the first game played at Shea Stadium following the terrorist attacks now ranks as one the most memorable baseball moments in recent history. Likewise, the New Orleans Saints helped restore civic pride and inspired fans to overcome their adversity.

Following tragic, real world life events, sports can seem trivial. However, they also can be a powerful vehicle for healing. During challenging times, athletes such as Mike Piazza, Eli Manning and Meb Keflezighi demonstrate to us all what it means to be a winner.

A native of Newark, Jed Hughes is Vice Chair of Korn/Ferry and the leader of the executive search firm's Global Sports Practice. Among his high profile placements are Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy, New York Jets President Neil Glat, and Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. Earlier in his career, Jed coached for two decades in professional and intercollegiate football where he served under five Hall of Fame coaches: Bo Schembechler (Michigan), Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bud Grant (Minnesota Vikings), John Ralston (Stanford) and Terry Donahue (UCLA). Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @jedhughesKF.

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