The World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, are set for October 17, but organizers announced on Monday that the event’s mass participation race has been cancelled. They hope to hold an elite-only race on the same day, although the ongoing pandemic has made it difficult to ensure that even an event with a small field can be run. More than 27,000 runners had signed up to race the mass participation event, but now their only option is to run the Gdynia 2020 virtual race. Organizers said they will do “whatever it takes to stage the elite competition.”
The Gdynia 2020 half-marathon was originally set to be run in March, right at the start of the global pandemic. Organizers had to postpone the event until October, and for a while it looked like it was going to work out. Unfortunately, with tens of thousands of runners set to race, it just wasn’t possible to ensure that everyone — the participants, volunteers and citizens of Gdynia — would be safe, and local COVID-19 restrictions forced organizers to pull the plug on the event.
“Under the current restrictions regarding mass participation events and seeing no perspective for these to be released soon, we are forced to cancel the mass race,” said Michal Drelich, head of the Gdynia 2020 organizing committee. “We have postponed this decision as long as possible but now it is time to accept the reality.”
The elite race
Drelich and his team still have hope that the elite world championship race can be run. If the event does go ahead, Canada will send a strong team to compete in Poland. Just before the race was originally cancelled back in March, Athletics Canada announced the selections for the elite team. The women’s side is headlined by former full and half-marathon national record-holder Rachel Cliff and Andrea Seccafien, the current half-marathon Canadian record-holder. The two will be joined by Victoria Coates, who race the 2017 World Half Marathon Championships. The men’s team features 2019 Canadian marathon champion Trevor Hofbauer, 1:01:44 half-marathoner Rory Linkletter, 2019 STWM half-marathon champion Benjamin Preisner and Thomas Toth, who competed in the world championships marathon in 2017.
A virtual half-marathon
All 27,000 runners who were signed up for the mass participation race in Gdynia have been invited to run the virtual half-marathon instead. It’s certainly not anywhere close to running a legitimate in-person world championship event, but after spending months preparing and getting race-ready, Gdynia entrants might want to put their fitness to the test. Even if you weren’t signed up to race in Poland, you can enter the virtual race, which is free to run.
To learn more about the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships or to sign up for the race, check out the event website.