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The great fall race disappearing act

If the global health crisis doesn't start to improve soon, the fall racing calendar might disappear in the blink of an eye

Chicago Marathon

Fall seems very far away, and with over four months to go until September, there’s still hope that races scheduled and postponed until later in 2020 will be able to go ahead. With the announcement that the Berlin Marathon won’t be run as planned (whether it’s cancelled or postponed has yet to be decided), September feels much closer than it did yesterday, and if the COVID-19 situation doesn’t begin to improve soon, more fall races might have to make the tough decision to cancel.

2019 Boston Marathon finish area. Photo: Canadian Running

Not many options

Organizers of the Berlin Marathon didn’t choose to call off the race, they were forced to. The German government announced yesterday that public gatherings would be limited to 5,000 people until October 24, and with Berlin scheduled for September 27, there was no choice but to move it or cancel it completely.

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No decision has been made yet, but if Berlin reschedules, it would likely have to be set for mid-November at the earliest, so as to not conflict with the New York City Marathon, which is set for November 1. If more countries implement restrictions like the one announced by Germany, then more fall races might face no choice but to cancel.

Travel bans

There’s also the question of international travel. Even if the London, Boston, Chicago and New York City marathons aren’t forced into cancelling by their governments, potential travel restrictions might impact these races. With international borders closed across the globe, individual countries are dealing with their own coronavirus outbreaks. As the dust settles in different places, many governments won’t want to reopen at the risk of letting the virus back within their borders.┬áSome countries might allow races to go ahead, but potential travel rules might restrict international runners from competing, resulting in weaker elite fields and smaller mass participation races.

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In addition to the question surrounding Berlin, the Chicago Marathon sent an email to all runners registered for the 2020 event (set for October 11) offering them the opportunity to defer their entries until 2021. It’s not a cancellation, but it doesn’t encourage much hope, which is another bad sign for the fate of the fall marathon schedule.