When runners toe the line at the start of The ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, they do it in the shadow of the Boston Marathon bombings, and last year’s Superstorm Sandy.
“This is going to be a race full of meaning. We’ll be thinking about all of those affected by Sandy last year, and our hearts will be with those affected by Boston,” Mary Wittenberg, New York Road Runner CEO, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
When Sandy hammered the Eastern Seaboard last October, lives were lost, billions of dollars in damage was done, and the marathon was canceled at the last minute, proving too much for a city still struggling to get the lights back on. Then in April, the unthinkable happened when the country’s oldest marathon, Boston, was bombed.
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The two events changed the tenor of what some see as a “comeback” race. Over 21,000 runners this year are holdovers from 2012 and the NYCRR has doubled their security budget, spending more than $1 million on security to ensure that runners and spectators are safe.
“Spectators should look forward to the marathon like any other year, but expect more security,” Kelly warned.
Spectators will see more barricades, fencings, security checkpoints and private security guards on site, according to Peter Ciccia, technical director for the ING NYC Marathon. Runners will be screened at the start on Staten Island, and stripped of certain gear for the race.
“Some of the things we changed this year is over the shoulder hydration packs, Camelbacks are not permitted this year,” Ciccia told CNBC. Instead, he said, they are encouraged to utilize the water being handed out throughout the course.
Also banned, wacky get ups. Runners, who once sported Halloween costumes during the race, will no longer be permitted to wear masks. The police want a good view of everyone in, and around, the race.
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To that end, they have set up over 100 mobile cameras around the city that will be monitored throughout Sunday.
The ING NYC Marathon is big business for New York City. Its economic impact on the Big Apple was an estimated $340 million in 2011. It is also big business for sponsors who see it as a premier opportunity to showcase their wares to runners and bystanders. The ING NYC Marathon is the largest, single-day spectator event in the world. Two million people line the course and watch from the bleachers. It is also broadcast globally, potentially reaching 330 million viewers.
(Read more: New York Marathon returns)
Asics is one of the title sponsors of the ING Marathon. For the maker of athletic footwear and apparel, the race is its largest marketing event of the year, making up about 15 percent of the its overall marketing budget.
It is a sponsorship deal that delivers a strong payoff.
“We anticipate sales to spike a little bit right after the marathon,” said Kevin Wulff, CEO and president of Asics America. A spike would be a nice addition to the double-digit growth in its running business during the last quarter.
Corporate sponsors have been preparing for months to ensure everything from food and hydration to safety are covered. So what does it take to outfit nearly 50,000 runners? Let’s start with hydration. Poland Spring will be supplying 62,370 gallons of water. If you want that extra boost, try some Gatorade. They will have 32,040 gallons of their Endurance Formula at the finish line and an additional 60,000 Power Gels at Mile 8.
“Sponsorship is up and stronger than ever,” said Wittenberg.
Sponsorship is strong, but the race’s major sponsor is changing. The marathon signed an eight-year deal with India’s Tata Consultancy Services as its decade-long partnership with ING comes to an end this year.
Wittenberg said it’s partnership with Tata will mean additional support to New York Road Runner programs all year round and a chance to rethink the entire presentation of the event,
“You will keep feeling that great sense of community and neighborhood feeling that the marathon has always brought,” she said.