50e The New York city marathon was to take place on the 1st of November. Wednesday, it was cancelled. On one side, the biggest marathon in the world, with more than 50 000 runners, which was to take place in the former epicenter of the national pandemic during the season during which the virus could surge, has been cancelled. The other hand, is not to the outside, where the marathons are taking place… a kind of safe place?
As a person who had spent a lot of time and money to enter the marathon through the registration process of the New York Road Runners, the possible OK-ness of large group events in the open air was definitely something I was hanging on! Although, also, as a full-time journalist on the coronavirus and former host of a podcast about running, I really knew better than to think that the the largest marathon in the world could take place safely in November. However, just in case, I had sorted through the options of the training plan. I imagined secretly a race with, say, departure times shifted, water stations socially remote and people with whistles to blow in case someone would be closer too. It was too attractive to not think about it. But the fact that the cancellation of Wednesday the highlights is the following: the gigantic events outdoor sports of any kind involve a huge amount of interactions beyond the gigantic sporting event of the outdoor itself.
The marathon is essentially to transform New York into a stage, as clearly explained the conversations I had prior to the coronavirus and Wednesday with the race director, Jim Heim. Approximately 20 miles of streets, five bridges, closed to riders; only the last part of the race takes place in a park. The marathon is preceded by a run all night to install barricades, aid stations where runners can get water and food, and the departure village where the riders congregate before heading coast to coast in “corrals”. Even before the riders start the race, they could use one of the hundreds and hundreds of pots to port; so that they do not flush and are thus less capable of projecting particles of shit possibly responsible for coronavirus in the air ideal. Oh, and before it allriders must make it to Staten Island where the race starts, via the ferry and then one of the 800 bus.
All this explains why a version safe of the race would be impossible to achieve – the regular race is already quite difficult to achieve. Heim has been speculated, for example, that they should quadruple the transportation to bring everyone to the beginning while the distancing. And he has noticed that during the race, there were hundreds of medical workers and 50 private ambulances. Not only the first aid because of injury from the race would force people to break the social distance, but this represents a lot of resources to borrow during a pandemic is unpredictable, he noted. Then, there are the dense crowd of spectators. In addition, most of the runners who run are not actually of New York, which would mean having to deal with a moving target of travel restrictions and quarantine.
A part of what has fueled my illusion personal that the New York city marathon could occur is the fact some racing underway at this time. Vacation Races has started to organise a few races in “small group” in person, involving modified routes and aid stations without staff. They mainly take place in the middle of the night. There are no spectators, and so that they can distance themselves socially, riders do not start all at the same time, but in groups of 50. Apparently, it takes a lot of changes to secure an outdoor activity, particularly by removing many aspects such as the competition and the after-parties that have made the race to the destination so attractive in the first place.
It is comical to imagine a lot of these changes during the largest marathon in the world. If the New York city marathon has implemented departures over very small groups, “we would start the runners for about a week to cross the finish line,” says Heim. But even the smaller breeds have trouble thinking about how a race changed could make sense for them. “How can we maintain the spirit of the race, while having the event in a safe?” asks my colleague Meg Wiegand. She is the coordinator volunteer of Devil Dog, a series of ultramarathons, which is currently “crayonnée” for December, while Wiegand and others try to resolve versions on a small scale what the New York city marathon could not solve. “I know rationally that it’s going to be difficult to have a race this year,” says Wiegand, “but I still hope that if we fight just this piece of the puzzle into submission, all the pieces will fall into place.”
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The cancellation during the course of the races of the New York city marathon to those that take place in the wood bursts the illusion very special for me, as a person who is the race so important: I thought that we could make sufficient progress with the virus to retrieve the events that we have been forced to abandon. As we learn things about the virus, we fold our actions, our configurations, our traditions, to adapt to a new standard of safety; I still hope that we will be able to do it while not mutant not to the point that they will no longer be recognizable (for the marathon, now, will be virtual, which is not the same). In New York, we are in a phase of re-opening when we have new salons and restaurants, though altered; it is comforting to think that things would progress linearly from here, and think of the plans that I could start to do if they did. I know look at the pics of the other States in the cases of the coronavirus so that things re-open, and that progress will always be at the point of death (and the re-opening could very well pull back, as the governor of New York has already threatened). I know that some things are, for now, just too much in charge of logistics, that the case of normality over the next year will be exceptions extremely hard-earned (or paid). But it is still very difficult to feel especially when it comes to keep hope for the things that I love.