Marathon Polarizes NYC Amid Devastation

There is real tragedy in New York. People have died in Staten Island. Queens had dozens of homes destroyed. And lower Manhattan remains a mess.

Kudlow: In Stunning Reversal, NYC Marathon Canceled
Stephen Hilger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Yet the New York Marathon not only will go on but also will pass through some of these distressed places.

It was an eerie scene by Central Park on Friday. Hundreds of marathon runners warming up for a pre-race workout. Very little English was spoken. Groups from Germany, Italy, France, Norway, Australia, Brazil — all having a grand time, even stopping to take pictures along the way.
(Read More: Scope of Sandy's Devastation Widens, Death Toll Spirals)

Nearly 40-percent of runners for this race are from outside of the United States.

Just a few miles away, people remain without food, water and power.

It has created a polarized debate: Should the race have been canceled. On one side, there is the community spirit of a marathon. Millions cheering on runners, most of whom they don't even know. Then, there's the economic impact. The New York Marathon creates an estimated $340 million in economic activity.

However, the event takes police and fire resources away from the recovery effort.

And now, there's a generator controversy. The race's setup in Central Park is using two massive generators with a third sitting idle as a backup. (Read More: Mayor Says NYC Marathon Won't Divert Resources)

These could be powering buildings, shelters and even hospitals.

It's not a simple decision and clearly, the New York Mayor's office wants the race to be run. Plus, what do you do with the thousands of visitors who were already here.

There has been tension with the visitors as well. Some hotels reportedly have asked families stranded by the storm to leave to make room for out-of-town runners. However, there are also stories of hotels refusing to uproot storm victims and replace them with marathon tourists.

CNBC talked to a slew of runners on Friday. They all expressed empathy, but they all want to run the race.

And many think it's a testament to Americans.

"It's what Americans do," said a runner from Brazil. "They recover quickly"

Let's hope so.

-By CNBC's Brian Shactman