By RiŽl Hauman
(15-Mar) -- South Africa's second largest ultramarathon, the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon over 56 km, also fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic when it was cancelled over the weekend. The race was scheduled to be held for the 51st time on its traditional Easter Saturday date, April 11, in Cape Town.
PHOTO: Gerda Steyn competing in the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (photo courtesy of New York Road Runners)
The race organizers recently announced that because of concerns for the safety of runners, the race distance would be extended to 58 km this year. The Two Oceans has IAU Gold Label status.
In a media statement released on Sunday the organizers announced that the decision to cancel the event was taken at an emergency meeting of the board members on Saturday. The statement said the decision was unanimous.
"We have been monitoring the status of the novel coronavirus pandemic as events have unfolded internationally and locally and we've consulted with public health experts and authorities," explained Race Director Debra Barnes. "The health and safety of the competitors, staff, sponsors and the global community are paramount and an event of this scale poses far too great a risk to continue. Guided by this priority and global best practice, [the Two Oceans] has made the difficult decision to cancel the worldís most beautiful ultramarathon for 2020."
Gerda Steyn, the South African ultra star who won the race the last two years in a row, understood the gravity of the situation and accepted the cancellation. "I truly think that as an athlete, it's important to be flexible in 2020," she wrote on her official Facebook page. "It's not always easy to prepare for something which is likely to be postponed, but guys, try to focus on the bigger picture. The reason for race cancellations are purely to protect ourselves and this is more important than a single race."
Another huge sporting event in the Cape Peninsula, the Cape Town Cycle Tour with more than 30,000 riders, took place without a hitch last Sunday. The organizers announced a few days before the race that they would not cancel the event despite the virus threat. The Cape Epic, one of the world's major multi-stage mountain bike races, was cancelled shortly before the start this past weekend.