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Blue Nose Marathon: how to hold a race in 2020

So many races have been cancelled due to COVID-19, but Blue Nose Marathon organizers are optimistic their event will still be run

Bluenose Marathon

While most Canadian races have either cancelled or look to be headed in that direction, the Blue Nose Marathon in Halifax appears to be on track to be held in 2020. The running season was put on hold when COVID-19 hit, and there has been a steady flow of race cancellations ever since. Some races have been held in Europe and the U.S., but with limited fields. Holding live professional events is difficult enough during the pandemic, let alone planning events for thousands of runners. There will of course be restrictions and safety guidelines in place at the Blue Nose Marathon, but organizers are confident that, come November, the race will go off without a hitch. 


Just postponed, not cancelled 

Originally, the Blue Nose Marathon was scheduled for May, but organizers decided to postpone the event until November 6. In a normal year, the event would see about 10,000 participants across all races (there are seven offered), but this year, Sherri Robbins, executive director of the Blue Nose Marathon, has proposed a race at half-capacity with a maximum of 5,000 racers. Robbins and the Blue Nose team have worked on a pandemic-altered race strategy for November, which they recently submitted to the provincial government in Nova Scotia. The Blue Nose team had to prove that their race could be run while still ensuring the safety of everyone involved.

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“We started reviewing the event and looking at the points of contact with participants and volunteers, and we examined what changes we need to make to meet the requirements the government has set out,” Robbins says. She and her team went through the entire race weekend — from the first point of contact with the race kit pickup, to the race start, to the finish — and figured out how to make everything as safe as possible. “Hopefully we’ve demonstrated to them that it can be done safely.” 

Blue Nose safety guidelines

In addition to the halved race capacity, runners will have to follow a few other rules come race day. One which Robbins notes is in regards to high-fives. “OK, we won’t be able to do that,” she says. “Maybe we’ll do high-fives from a distance.” 

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There will also be wave starts for every race, with each corral including about 250 racers. The wave starts will be based on seeding times and they’ll be spread out to avoid congestion on the course or at the finish. For the 5K, for example, waves will leave every 15 minutes. The start and finish line festivities will look a little different this year, and racers will be asked to show up according to their wave time before the run and not to stick around for too long afterward. 

When runners finish, there will be a “self-serve” medal station to avoid touch points with volunteers. Participants will be able to get a post-race meal, but it will all be pre-packaged and ready to go beforehand. 

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From start to finish, the Blue Nose Marathon will look a little different. Even the aid stations will be a bit out of the ordinary, and runners might be asked to carry their own bottles which they can refill on the course. But it’s still a race, which runners have been craving since March when every race was cancelled or postponed. Rather than look at the changes as negatives, runners should view them as positives. Yes, they’ll make for a different racing experience, but we’re not really in a position where we can complain these days. We should take what we can get, and if all goes well, the Blue Nose Marathon will be one of our first racing opportunities to grab.