(13-Jul) -- In a widely expected move, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has been officially cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a joint announcement from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot and the event's long time executive director Carey Pinkowski, officials said that the event just wasn't feasible, citing "the challenges of staging an event of this scale at this time and out of concern for the safety of event participants, volunteers, event staff and spectators." The cancellation of the October 11, race follows the recent cancellations of both the Boston and TCS New York City Marathons. As such, no event of the global Abbott World Marathon Majors series will be held in the United States this year.
PHOTO: Brigid Kosgei of Kenya winning the 2019 Bank of American Chicago Marathon, setting a world record of 2:14:04 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"The Chicago Marathon is our city's beloved annual celebration of more than 45,000 runners, as well as tens of thousands of volunteers, spectators and city residents, all of whom come together race weekend as one community here in our city," said Mayor Lightfoot through a media statement. "Like all Chicagoans, I'm personally disappointed that this year's event won't take place as originally planned, however, we look forward to welcoming all runners and their cheering squads once again when the Chicago Marathon returns to our city in full force for another very exciting race."
The race --the second-largest marathon in the United States which had a record 45,962 finishers in 2019-- was founded in 1977 and has been held every year since then but one, 1987, when the race was cancelled because then event sponsor Beatrice Foods withdrew its financial support and organizers decided against holding a smaller version of the race. A 3000-runner half-marathon was held in it's place, however, with no prize money.
"It's as hard to downscale as it was to build," event founder Lee Flaherty was quoted as saying by the Chicago Tribune. "I'd rather skip a year and come back as a quality event."
The pandemic has hit large-scale road race organizers particularly hard. The magic of such events is how they transform a city into a field of play, drawing together dozens of elite athletes, tens of thousands of citizen runners, and sometimes millions of spectators. Such events are big contributors to local economies, and the Chicago Marathon normally stokes the city's economy with a nearly $400 million jolt. Although Illinois has done better than other large states at controlling the virus, the event will have to wait until next year.
"Hope drives us as runners and as humans," said Pinkowski who has directed the race since 1990. "My hope was to see everyone on the start line on Sunday, October 11, but our highest priority has always been the safety of our participants and our volunteers. "We understand the disappointment, but when we return to the streets of Chicago, it will be a celebratory moment and an uncompromising statement about the collective spirit of who we are as a running community: we are powerful, we are persistent, and we will reach the finish line again."
Organizers also outlined their plan to allow registered runners for the 2020 race to receive a refund, or rollover their entries to 2021, 2022 or 2023 editions of the race. All registered runners will receive a personal message informing them of their options. There will also be an option to run "virtually," where runners run the distance on their own near their homes.
So far this year, only one event of the Abbott World Marathon Majors has taken place, the Tokyo Marathon. That event was held as an elite-only race as a precaution against spreading the virus. The BMW Berlin Marathon, scheduled for September 27, has also been cancelled leaving only the Virgin Money London Marathon as a possibility from the Abbott series this year. The London event has been postponed from September 26, to October 4. Organizers are expected to announce soon whether the event will actually be held, and under what conditions.
The last big marathon to be held globally this year was the Los Angeles Marathon on March 8, which had 20,989 finishers.