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With Great North Run cancelled, London Marathon could be next

The biggest mass participation sporting event in the U.K. was cancelled due to COVID-19, which is a bad sign for the British World Marathon Major

Photo by: Paofit

It was announced on Monday that the Great North Run (GNR), scheduled for September 13, has been officially cancelled due to COVID-19. The race, which starts in Newcastle and ends in South Shields, is the biggest mass participation sporting event in the U.K. and hosts the largest half-marathon field in the world. Now the 60,000 racers that organizers expected in September will have to wait until the 2021 event. With the cancellation of the GNR, the fate of the London Marathon looks even more bleak than it did before, and a decision for the World Marathon Major is set to be made on June 21.

The Great North Run and the London Marathon

The GNR not only attracts tens of thousands of participants, but it also sees some of the world’s best runners toeing the line every year. Past winners include Kenenisa Bekele and Mo Farah (who has won the last six GNRs) on the men’s side and Mary Keitany and Brigid Kosgei (who ran a course record in 2019) for the women.

Race founder and 1976 10,000m Olympic bronze medallist Brendan Foster told The Independent that he doesn’t think it’s likely that there will be a 2020 edition of the London Marathon, which had already been moved from April until October due to COVID-19.


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“Mass participation events in the form that ours takes, and the London Marathon takes, are clearly going to be extremely difficult to hold and it’s going to be up to us to find a formula for the future,” Foster said. He went on to say how disappointed he and the GNR team were after deciding to cancel their event, but he put their feelings in perspective by comparing the loss of a race to more serious matters.

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“We’re not in pain and anguish like people who have had the disease,” he said. “Nor are we devastated like families who have lost loved ones. It is a blow but it is nothing like others have suffered.” The 2020 edition of the GNR would have been the 40th running of the race, but that will have to wait until next September.

Abbott World Majors

The Boston Marathon has already been cancelled, and although nothing has officially been decided, it seems likely that the Berlin Marathon (scheduled for September 27) will follow with a cancellation of its own. The Chicago (October 11) and New York City (November 1) marathons have yet to make definitive announcements regarding how COVID-19 will affect their races.

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With London organizers making a decision this weekend, it could be the next World Major to fall, and as more time passes, there look to be very good odds that the Tokyo Marathon might be the only one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors to be run in 2020, and even that was a fractured race with limited fields of only elite and wheelchair athletes.