The Corona virus has already shaken up the Spring race schedule and no one knows where it’s going from here. Rome marathon (March 29) has been cancelled, Paris Marathon (April 5), Barcelona Marathon (March 15) and the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland (March 28) have all been postponed until October. Highlighted by the Boston and London marathons, April is a very busy month for big marathons. Fears that the Corona virus could spread through these events has put uncertainty into the running of mass participation races where people come from far and wide to participate.
Many elite runners are using these events to achieve qualifying standards to the 2020 Olympic games.
There are about 8 Canadian men vying for the last two spots on the Canadian marathon squad for Tokyo 2020 and we are all planning on running a big marathon in the next few months. If these marathons get cancelled or postponed then we will have to look into chasing the 2:11:30 Olympic standard at smaller races. Most of the smaller races aren’t conducive to reach one’s fastest time. Either the weather isn’t often optimal, there are too many hills and/or too many turns and there’s a lack of other runners shooting for similar marks.
In order for me to run under 2:11:30 I know that my training has to be great, I’ll need to wear the right shoes and I’ll need to run with a pack of runners on a fast course. Realistically there is only one shot left to hit the Olympic standard before the window closes at the end of May. My training is aimed specifically for May 3rd, however I can easily change that date by a couple of weeks one way or the other to accommodate another race if need be.
Perhaps if a few major races get cancelled then one or two smaller marathons will end up being very competitive and the chances of hitting the Olympic standard will be more realistic. Otherwise it’s a daunting task to time-trial 2:11:30 all by yourself. The Ottawa marathon is a good opportunity to chase an Olympic qualifier, but seeing as it sits at the end of May if you wait for that race and it gets cancelled or postponed there might not be any backup race available.
The race organizers will try to do everything they can to have their event go ahead as planned. But sometimes these things are out of the control of the races themselves.
I’m coaching three athletes who are racing the 2020 Boston marathon. The advice I tell my athletes is that they cannot control whether the race goes ahead as planned. They can only control their training and the shape they will be in come race day (and have a contingency plan in place). If they get really fit and the race gets cancelled they won’t regret that they got into shape. Worrying about the race won’t do any good. And I find I’m telling myself the same advice.
(Whether or not the Olympics themselves get cancelled is a whole other conversation.)