World Athletics and the organizers of the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, have announced that a virtual component will be added to this year’s event, which is scheduled to be run on October 17. The event, which was originally set for March but postponed until the fall due to COVID-19, will still have in-person elite and mass participation races, but now runners from anywhere in the world can participate as well. The virtual race is free to enter, and organizers are hoping that enough people will race worldwide to make it the biggest half-marathon in the sport’s history.
Racing the virtual half-marathon is simple. Anyone who wants to race can sign up on the event website, and then on October 17, each participant can run their 21K, regardless of where they are in the world. World Athletics president Seb Coe has expressed his excitement for the event, and in a video addressing runners, he invited anyone and everyone to join the race.
“As a runner, I’ve been delighted to see so many more people take up or return to running to maintain their fitness in the challenging circumstances we have all faced due to the pandemic this year,’’ he said. “Having a goal is always good motivation to keep fit and I hope that runners around the globe will join in and take the challenge of running a half-marathon wherever they may be on October 17.”
The mayor of Gdynia, Wojciech Szczurek, also released a statement following the announcement of the virtual event. “Gdynia loves any kind of sports activity, even in the virtual world,” he said. “It will be an honour for us to be a global running capital for one day.”
While it’s free to race the virtual event, participants will be able to purchase medals and t-shirts that feature the event slogan, “All you need is running.” Donations are also being accepted for SOS Children’s Villages, a nonprofit based out of Austria which helps children in need around the world.
In March, just a couple of days before the Gdynia race was cancelled, Athletics Canada released its roster for the championships. The women’s team features former half and full marathon national record-holder Rachel Cliff, current half-marathon Canadian record-holder Andrea Seccafien and 2017 World Half Marathon Championships participant Victoria Coates. On the men’s side, 2019 Canadian marathon champion Trevor Hofbauer will be joined by Rory Linkletter, Benjamin Preisner and Thomas Toth. If the race goes ahead as planned and each of these athletes can make it to the start line in Poland, it should be a speedy day for Canadian road runners.
To learn more about the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships or to sign up for the race, check out the event website.