Why the New York City Marathon can’t happen this year, even though it’s outside.

Runners on a street in New York City during the race.

Runners during the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon on November 3 in New York City.

David Dee Delgado / Getty Images

The 50th The New York City marathon was scheduled for November 1. Wednesday it was canceled. On the one hand, of course, the world’s largest marathon, with more than 50,000 runners, was scheduled to take place in the former national epicenter of the pandemic during the season in which the virus could increase. On the other hand, isn’t it the outdoors, where marathons take place … as a safe place to be?

As someone who had spent a lot of time and money entering the marathon through the New York Road Runners entry process, the prospect of doing well at large outdoor group events is definitely something I had held on to! However, also, as a full-time coronavirus reporter and former presenter of a running podcast, I really knew I shouldn’t think that the world’s largest marathon It could be safely held this November. Still, just in case, he had been searching for training plan options. I was secretly imagining a race with, say, staggered start times, socially distant water stations, and people with whistles in case someone got too close. He was too attractive not to consider it. But the fact that Wednesday’s cancellation underscores is that: Giant outdoor sporting events of any kind involve a great deal of interaction beyond the gigantic outdoor sporting event.

Basically, the marathon involves turning New York City into a stadium, as conversations I had both before the coronavirus and on Wednesday with race director Jim Heim made clear. About 20 miles of streets, plus five bridges, closed by runners; Only the last part of the race occurs in a park. The marathon is preceded by an all-night fight to establish barricades, aid stations where runners can grab food and water, and the starting village where runners congregate before heading to stand shoulder to shoulder in “pens.” Before the runners start the race, they could use one of the hundreds and hundreds of potties; while these don’t rinse and are therefore less able to toss possibly coronavirus-laden excrement particles into the air … breathing and excreting in a small plastic box that, seconds after you leave, someone else will rush not to sound ideal. Oh and before everything thatRunners have to get to Staten Island, where the race begins, via the ferry and then one of the 800 buses.

All of this helps explain why a safe version of the race would be impossible to achieve: the regular race is already quite difficult to achieve. Heim speculated, for example, that they would have to quadruple the transport so that everyone started at the same time they were distanced. And he noted that during the race, there are hundreds of medical workers plus 50 private ambulances waiting. Not only does first aid care due to operational injuries force people to break the social gap, but there are many resources to borrow during an unpredictable pandemic, he noted. Then there are the dense crowds of spectators. Also, most brokers are not from New York, which would mean dealing with a moving target of travel restrictions and quarantine.

Part of what fueled my personal illusion that the New York Marathon could happen is the fact that there is Some ongoing races right now. Vacation Races has started doing some in-person “small group” races, including modified courses and unmanned help stations. They mainly take place in the dark of night. There are no spectators, and in order for them to distance themselves socially, runners do not start all at once, but in groups of 50. Apparently, many modifications are needed to make an outdoor activity safe, including removing many of the aspects like competition and after parties that made running a destination race so attractive in the first place.

It’s comical to imagine many of those modifications in the world’s largest marathon. If the New York City marathon implemented very small group staggered starts, “we’d be starting runners for a week or so for everyone to cross the line,” says Heim. But even the smallest races are struggling to think how a modified race could make sense to them. “How do we maintain the spirit of the race while holding the event safely?” asks my colleague Meg Wiegand. She is the volunteer coordinator for Devil Dog, a series of ultramarathons that is currently “locked up” for this December, while Wiegand and others are trying to solve small-scale versions of what the New York Marathon failed to solve. “I rationally know that it will be difficult to have a career this year,” says Wiegand, “but I still hope that if we get through this piece of the puzzle, all the pieces will fit.”

The continued cancellation of the New York Marathon races held in the woods breaks a very specific hoax for me, as someone who considers running to be so important: I thought we might be making enough progress with the virus to be able to recover the events we had. they were forced to surrender. As we learn things about the virus, we are doubling our actions, our settings, our traditions, to accommodate a new security standard; I still hope that we can do that without mutating them to the point that they are no longer recognizable (the marathon, now, will be virtual, which is not the same). In New York, we are in a phase of reopening where once again we have barbershops and restaurants, although modified; It’s comforting to think that things could progress linearly from here, and to think about the plans you could start making if they did. me to know of watching other states’ spikes in coronavirus cases as things reopen and progress will invariably halt (and the reopening could backtrack, as the New York governor has already threatened). I know that some things are, for now, simply too logistical, that instances of normality in the coming year will be very difficult (or highly paid) exceptions. But it is still very difficult sensation especially when it comes to keeping hope for the things I love.