Should We Expect Any Major Marathons to Happen This Year?

The top six are currently all slated for this fall

Runners cross the Verrazano Bridge to begin the NYC Marathon
Runners cross the Verrazano Bridge to begin the NYC Marathon
Drew Levin/Getty

A week ago, the New York City Marathon posted a surprisingly optimistic message to Instagram. The organization confirmed that it’s planning on hosting the largest marathon in the world the first Sunday of this November, same as always. Alongside the announcement arrived a fancy golden logo — commemorating 50 years of the famous race — and a lengthy list of FAQs, meant to address concerns about holding the event during a pandemic.

Despite what looks like a detailed rollout, though, there is very little information currently available for running hopefuls, or those who’d been planning on running in 2020 (their placement in the race was deferred indefinitely once the race was canceled). At this point, New York Road Runners don’t know when registration will be open, or what a race would even look like. Will there be a cap on participants? Will there be spectators? Will proof of vaccination be required? Or will a PCR test suffice? Might runners have to wear face coverings?

That said, you can’t exactly blame them for publicly “committing” to hosting the event. These things take a year to plan even in normal, happy years. The best way to ensure the event doesn’t happen is to give up on it right now. And as long as we’re choosing to stay positive, we really could be living in a different world by this fall. President Biden announced an order for 200 million more doses yesterday; cases have dropped by 36% nationwide over the last two weeks.

Besides, New York would actually be the last of the six World Marathon Majors to take place this year. Berlin is scheduled for late August. Boston, Chicago, London and Tokyo are all slated for early October. London’s race director even said he hopes to see the biggest marathon in the city’s history. It’s likely that New York could build upon the efforts of the past marathons — while avoiding their potential mistakes.

But is it worth risking those mistakes at all? Depends on who you ask. Most runners will have missed out on majors for nearly two years by the time these marathons roll around. They’ll be excited to finally realize a long-held dream, and it’ll probably taste a little sweeter, coming out of quarantine. Infectious disease experts, meanwhile, sort of play the role of adult chaperones at an underage party. They’d rather we didn’t run marathons this year, or risk indoor dining, or gather in stadiums and arenas. But if we must, they’ll work closely with officials to make sure it’s all as safe as possible.

Stay tuned for more information on registration, and precisely what these races will look like. If nothing else, an old-school marathon day — with thousands of strangers cheering each other on — is a pretty poetic endgame to shoot for once this is all over.

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