THOUSANDS of runners from around the world have participated in what the Australian contingent dubbed a "solidarity" run around Central Park, in place of the cancelled New York marathon.
Under clear blue skies and just the right amount of autumn chill - perfect running conditions - most of us did one lap of 10 kilometres, which took in what would have been the finish line of the world's greatest marathon.
No marathon? Run anyway
With the ny marathon cancelled, Stephen Nicholls joins 15,000 would-be participants in a solidarity run to support victims of hurricane Sandy.
The event wasn't officially organised - the several hundred runners brought here by the Australian agency Travelling Fit had simply decided to do their own run. But it appeared every other running group from around the globe had exactly the same idea, with brightly coloured polyester tops from Chile, France, Romania, Brazil, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands and New Zealand among those spotted.
Running the course was exciting, with the cheering crowds providing just a taste of the real event.
"How good was that finish line," said Ryan Trainer, who was running in memory of his father who had died of bowel cancer in March and had raised more than $12,000 for cancer research.
His brother, Lincoln, chipped in: "You can feel what it was going to be like.
"New York seems a little bit sympathetic to our cause; lining the finish line, with the cowbells, and just supporting us."
Clutching an enormous blow-up kangaroo, the head of the Terrigal-based Travelling Fit, Mari-Mar Walton, said the Australians were running to show their respect and help the recovery. "There've been lives lost here ... we're here to support the New Yorkers and that's what Australians do."
Runner Deb Christie, who had also raised $12,000 for cancer research, agreed that Australians needed to support the hurricane victims. But she said the best way to do that would have been to let the marathon go ahead.
"We have 20,000 international people here - they could have put us together after the run … and now it's all fragmented," she said.
Ms Christie said that upon being reassured early last week by organisers that the marathon would proceed, her group had made the decision to come for the event and then spend a week helping the victims by delivering meals and clothes. "In fact we're going to pack boxes this afternoon," she said.
While sharing the city's grief about the loss of life and destruction to people's homes, many of the visiting Australians were critical of the mayor and organisers cancelling the marathon at the last minute. Many had endured days of travel, with flights diverted to other cities and some had even resorted to long road trips.
Phillip Scanlan, the Australian consul-general in New York, said he couldn't comment on whether things could have been handled better. But he did congratulate "Team Australia".
"The run this morning and the fact that they're making a contribution and helping out … the people of Manhattan and the boroughs of the city of New York as well as New Jersey will very much appreciate the support they've got from Team Australia."
All of the runners' post-race goody bags containing food and heat blankets were donated to the relief effort. Many also donated their pre-race tracksuits.
Michelle Bovill was among those who headed to Staten Island, where the race was to have started.
"The devastation is beyond belief," she said. "We got to move some garbage and help in a small way but it meant a lot to the locals that people cared enough to come ... All of the clothing donations are being put to good use."