Races have gone virtual and that’s awesome. But we asked five industry leaders when the actual thing might return. Does anyone still hold out hope for a big Canadian race in 2020? Ben Kaplan spoke with our industry’s stars.
Ben Kaplan: So, outside of the PEI Marathon and the time trial in Waterloo, when will Canada host its first large running race?
Lesley Quinlan, Canada Army Run: Races may begin a return to a physical format by spring of 2021, but likely still smaller numbers and modified formats.
Kirsten Fleming, Scotiabank Calgary Marathon: Runners safety is our creed and ethical code so we are making conservative decisions until there is certainty. There is no clear timeline for certainty—therefore no clear timeline for races.
Marianne Pelchat, Quebec City Marathon: I like to think that we will be able to hold our event in October. Yes, I am a very optimistic person and at Gestev we have that saying “To the impossible all are bound” ( à l’impossible tous sont tenus)—although the real saying is “to the impossible no one is required (à l’impossible nul n’est tenu).
Charlotte Brookes, Canada Running Series: We need to go one step at a time.
If it’s not safe, we retrace our footsteps. It’s like returning to running after an injury.
Ian Fraser, Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon: I think we will see micro events in the fall of 2020. I could see us doing events safely with less than 100 people and maybe a few more than that.
BK: Ian, you hinted at what we can look forward to. What will races look like when we return?
KF: Less 2019 bedazzle and more vintage 1980s and ’90s style racing, but with future-forward 2021 safety that I can’t even begin to list as we are still developing.
IF: We feel less certain about how we get participants from home to the start line and then from the finish line back home safely. I think the less complex part of this story is the actual race course itself and what happens out there.
MP: The “emballage” around a running event—kiosks, boutiques, sponsors activations, VIP area—will not happen for some time. Events will be taking a more “sport only” approach.
CB: We’ve been working so hard over the last few years to really enhance the event experience and provide people with more than just a start, course and finish line event. So do we want to put on an event before there’s a vaccine and require physical distancing measures?
BK: That’s a good question. You think anything good will come out of this forced, sustained pause?
LQ: It’s brought the sport back to its roots.
CB: Indeed, plus its a fabulous opportunity for an almost complete re-set. And the virtual world is here to stay.
LQ: It’s our time to rebrand the running industry.
IF: Our participants haven’t gone anywhere. They didn’t leave us to take up shuffleboard or frisbee golf. In fact, there are likely many new runners who we have never spoken to. It’s racings chance to think a little bigger, a little less traditional and to take some risk.
I believe the end of COVID-19 will be the beginning of another running boom.