STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Well-bundled runners arrived at the New York City Marathon hours before their start time and waited in especially brisk November weather, wearing layers upon layers of fleece, down, wool, cotton and plastic (trash bags serve as great insulators).
Some runners were creative: Cassandra Fenkle and J.C. Curcio, of Harlem, sat under a blanket of hay that was laid down on the Fort Wadsworth lawn, the official starting hub of the marathon. “Trust me, it keeps you warm,” Fenkle assured.
Venezuelan Williams Garcia struggled to stretch an extra pair of wool socks over his running shoes. He was wearing a trash bag, two sweatshirts, a scarf and two blankets. He looked like a man that was too friendly with the pigeons in the local park.
When it was time for runners like Garcia to doff his layers and begin his 26.2, Goodwill moved in.
Near all of the starting gates, Goodwill placed dozens of clothes donation bins and boxes to welcome runners to ditch and donate their outer layers that were inappropriate running garb. And, whether out of altruism, or convenience, runners did just that.
Goodwill estimates that it will collect around 26 tons of clothing from the 50,000 New York City Marathon runners, making it by far its largest clothing donation event of the year.
“I’m going to donate everything you see on me,” said runner Henry Mazurak, of Brooklyn, who nodded to his feet and back up. He was wearing a hoodie, sweatpants and gloves. “I’m giving everything that kept me warm this morning in hopes that it will keep someone else warm–someone who needs these clothes much more than I do.”
Runner Sonja Tanaka, from Paris, didn’t know what she would do with her outer layers as she headed into Staten Island for the marathon. “When I heard of the donations I thought, ‘this is a brilliant idea,'” she said.
Mauricio Hernandez, vice president of business affairs at Goodwill, said that the donation bins “just make a lot of sense.”
“Runners don’t want to worry about what to do with their clothes,” he said. “This is a great solution that allows the runners to be environmentally conscious.”
Goodwill came on to collect the clothes in 2013 in partnership with the city’s Department of Sanitation and Reuse!NYC, though event organizers, New York Road Runners, have been donating leftover clothes to charity organizations for years.
Goodwill’s hired staff spent hours combing the National Parks Service grounds, sorting through clothes that were left behind.
“We collect all the clothes and, if deemed to be in of acceptable quality, they’ll be sent to our stores,” Hernandez said.
Some runners came with extra gear explicitly for the donation bins. “They’re too worn to run in, but still perfectly fine sneakers.”,” said Texan Dee Dee Byrne, referring to an extra pair of running shoes she placed in the bin. She corrected herself, “They’re gently used.”