What does the future of road racing look like during a pandemic?

Step, step, step.

Sarah Hall could clearly hear her feet touching the road, every time as if someone had attached a microphone to it.

It was the first kilometer of the London 2020 Marathon, which took place on the 4th. October, and room 37 had a lonely incarnation: Silence will be the only constant during this race. No fans shouting encouragement when she feels sorry for herself, no backdrop to keep her company when she feels lonely on the track. Only she, 10 other elite runners and a 2.15 km loop, which has been cleared for the marathon.

Her husband and coach Ryan Hall, the only person in her bladder, stood at the beginning of the hinge, and she couldn’t wait to see his face every time she took a lap. When she was only a few seconds away from setting her personal best time – the sixth fastest time in US history – he shouted: You’ve got 40 seconds on the last mile!

And as if an energy force had grabbed her suddenly, she growled and pushed for the last time after covering the last 150 metres – and 20 seconds – to the finish. With the Kenyan Cosgei Brigade she finished second and ran a marathon of 2 hours and 22 minutes.

I’ve come to this way of thinking where I feel sorry for myself – for example, why I’m here and why I walk this one mile – and then I talk to myself all the time: You should be so grateful to run a marathon during a global pandemic, Mr. Hall said.


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The coronavirus pandemic has already changed the road race, maybe even irreversibly. It’s a sport that brings tens of thousands of everyday athletes together with elite runners – on the same track, often for a day. So even though almost all major sports have managed to return to more or less the same conditions as for KOVID-19, it still seems unthinkable to organize a marathon while guaranteeing the safety of thousands of people. In addition, the massive cancellation of competitions results in millions of dollars in registration and travel costs for organizers, small businesses and the city where the competitions are held.

After a break of seven months, the London Marathon was the first major marathon in the world during the coronavirus pandemic. The race was limited to elite athletes placed in bubbles in an athletic hotel surrounded by 40 acres, so runners could train a week before the race. Rapid tests were carried out twice upon arrival and twice during the week of the bubble. Runners and their coaches got a contact strip which was colored when the runners moved up to one meter distance from another person.

Fault! The file name is not specified. World record holder, Brigid Cosway, won the London 2020 Marathon for the second time in a row. London Marathon Events / Action Plus / Ice Sport Walk

The race itself was a closed loop for the public around St. John’s, Newfoundland. St. James’s Park in London. In preparation, Hall changed her entire training method when she returned to Arizona, and instead of choosing courses that reflected the hills and plateaus of London courses, she trained on footpaths. During the race, the room was equipped with its own portable bathroom. Imagine in a race for the VIDOC – you don’t have to compete to pee on time, they laughed afterwards.

What about the thousands of runners in Unelite? The London Marathon opened reserves for virtual races alongside elite athletes – 47,000 places from 109 countries – and was sold out in a matter of weeks.

The marathon community really wants it. They want something to hold on to while they take this test, Hall said.

Virtual racing was the lifeline for the racing industry during the pandemic. The New York Marathon, which was originally planned for the 1. This year’s virtual race is the one planned for November. 27,000 runners choose the route they want to take from 17 to 18 November. From October to October 1st. November. Your race will be tracked using live location exchange technology. Although there is no trophy or cash prize winner, there is a leaderboard that keeps track of each person’s virtual results.

Although it’s very different from road racing, people still love to share their successes and help each other, says Jim Hame, New York Road Race Director.

Moreover, during the pandemic, discussions between the elite (or semi-elite) and everyday runners were more intense. Every week, American long-distance runner Stephanie Bruce uploads videos and photos of her training plan to Instagram so runners can train with her and feel connected.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Stephanie Bruce plans to hold the 2020 marathon almost Sunday in New York City. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce, who runs the New York Marathon almost every Sunday, chose a three-mile lap in her hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, and because she knows the course of New York so well, she took the time to portray parts of the three-mile lap as hills and waterfalls that she would have encountered if she had run all five congregations.

It doesn’t matter how the race goes or what the result is, with each training cycle you get stronger and get to know yourself better, so with each cycle you get more momentum for your own race – that’s how I imagine the last few months of virtual running, Bruce said.

And with the return of small personal races – NYRR held a pilot race in Central Park with 200 runners at the end of September – the future of the highway race is likely to be smaller, more socially isolated and with a virtual hybrid component, Heim said.

In a marathon we get together and run, but the way people are organized changes. Three to four runners per set, which gives the runners time to get the advantage over the next set of runners to the finish line, is very different from what we’ve done historically, but if that’s what we have to do to get the race going, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Heim said. Starting small, learning and growing is what we are as a functional community.

Fault! The file name is not specified. In 2019 53,627 tokens participated in the New York City Marathon and an estimated one million spectators cheered them as they ran through the streets of New York City. Taifun Koskun/Anadolu Agency through Getty Images

But at the same time, the financial blow to the industry is considerable. Marathon organizers derive most of their income from registration fees and large marathons bring millions of dollars to the cities where they run. According to the commercial group Running USA, 17.6 million runners were registered in the United States in 2019. The NYRR estimates that the economic impact of the New York marathon is more than $400 million annually.

On Wednesday it was announced that the 2021 Boston Marathon, originally planned for April, has been postponed until autumn, which also postponed the possibility for the organizers and the city of Boston to win hundreds of millions of dollars. (According to the Big Boston Convention and Tourism Bureau, the economic impact for the Boston region in 2018 was US$201 million).

Race organizers and the local economy will need time to get out of this hole, Heim said.

We had to take the elevator to get down, but we had to take the stairs, Jaime said, adding that the saying was a cornerstone of his approach to the future of motor racing.

Despite the difficult future ahead of us, the amateur and elite riders seem to agree on one thing: They’ll do everything they can to keep up with their sport. If that means you have to drive virtually for a while or drive more than 19 laps of a loop over a mile to finish the race, they will.

I imagine I’m walking around Queens. I’m going to shoot First Avenue so hard as if the fans are there to cheer me up, because I know I’ll come back one day… and imagine how beautiful it will be when we can really compete and take off to Staten Island, said Bruce, 36. After everything we’ve been through this year with the virtual marathon, it will be sweeter if we can get back on the track one day.

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