New York (CNN) -- Two years ago, Beatriz Craven helped her mother shave her head after chemotherapy treatments made Maria del Carmen Castillo's hair fall out.
Craven then tied a blue-and-white cotton scarf they had purchased together in Houston around her mother's bald head.
"My hope was that these little things would help," said Craven, who lost her mother, 58, to ovarian cancer in March.
To channel her grief, the daughter began training for her first-ever 26.2-mile race.
"I didn't realize how much anger I had and I wanted to turn it into something positive."
She traveled this week in New York, planning to wear the scarf in Sunday's New York City Marathon, which normally draws 47,000 runners. "I thought it was only right to wear it, and try to be fearless like she was."
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday announced the cancellation of the race because boroughs were still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, Craven hardly hesitated.
"I had a two-second reaction," she said. "I'm going to run anyway."
The race was set to begin on Staten Island, where the majority of the city's storm-related deaths were recorded. But controversy surfaced this week over concerns that the event would drain resources needed for the massive recovery.
"It's tough," said Craven's brother, Juan Castillo, 30, who lives in New York. "But you understand the reasons why they had to cancel."
While Craven agreed, her decision to endure the brutal strain of running the distance is more than a simple desire to run.
"Throughout my mother's illness I noticed I started to get more goal-oriented," she said. Craven participated in a half-marathon just prior to her mother's death.
"I was trying to do all things that once seemed unimaginable. I felt that if I could do all these extraordinary things, that my mom could beat cancer."
Both Craven and Maricel Laxa Pangilinan, who traveled from the Philippines with her husband and daughter to run in the marathon, plan instead Sunday to run in Central Park. Some participants will do a full marathon, looping around the iconic green, while others will run shorter distances.
The impromptu gathering of runners was scheduled through social media, with the aim "to acknowledge all your training and efforts to prepare and come to the NYC Marathon."
Runners should assemble at 10 a.m. at Manhattan's Columbus Circle, according to an unofficial Facebook site dedicated to this year's marathoners.
Pangilinan arrived in New York a day before Sandy barreled across the Eastern Seaboard, demolishing homes, flooding subways and leaving millions without power.
"I turned 42 years old this year," she said. "I wanted to do 42 kilometers at age 42."
Others debated Saturday whether they would run at all.
"I think a lot of people are just going to join in when people start running," said Ashley McAleavy, a 27-year-old fashion designer at Remedy Designs in Manhattan. "That may be my best tactic."
The recovery effort continued Saturday across wide sections of Staten Island, Queens and Long Island, while gasoline shortages plagued New Jersey, where some of the worst storm damage occurred.
On battered Staten Island, local residents had planned to mix relief efforts and the inclination to run.
Ryan and Pamela Murphy organized a series of "street-run 5k" runs to raise money and other donations for storm-affected neighbors.
And by 5 p.m. Saturday, they had raised $13,500. But with a plethora of donations, the organizers called off the races and had a suggestion to supporters.
"The best thing we can do right now is offer our physical help along the Staten Island shoreline," the Murphys wrote. "We encourage you to join us, or to find a location that has been affected and offer your time -- it's the best donation you can make right now."
Relief organizations such as World Vision reported that many runners had exchanged their sneakers for work boots, working with the organization to deliver food kits.
"I could have sat in the hotel room. I could have gone sight-seeing, and probably would have still felt pretty empty," said Tim Fearn-Wannan, who traveled from Melbourne, Australia, for the race.
"But this is a good feeling that there are people out there in a pretty bad situation at the moment and we're doing our small part to help out with that."