2020 Victoria Marathon cancelled due to COVID-19

Cathy Noel said her children asked if they are finally getting turkey dinner for Thanksgiving this year. They will be.

Noel is the general manager and race director of the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon, which announced Wednesday that the 41st running scheduled for Oct. 11 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The event has been a Thanksgiving long-weekend tradition in the city for four decades. An economic impact study last year by Destination Greater Victoria estimated the race accounts for $12 million of economic activity in the region annually. More than $2 million has been raised over the past 16 years by the marathon’s charity component.

More than 8,000 participants took part in the 40th anniversary race last year. About 1,100 people had registered so far this year. They can transfer their registration fee to the 2021 or 2022 races or have the option of a refund with the donation of part of their refund to one of the marathon’s charities.

“We were building off the success of the 40th anniversary race and were well ahead of pace in February to exceed last year’s registrations before talk of the pandemic became a factor,” said Noel.

Several name marathons scheduled for earlier in the year, including Boston and London, have postponed to fall dates. The Chicago Marathon, held on the same day in October each year as the Victoria race, and New York City Marathon scheduled for Nov. 1 have not yet cancelled or postponed. But last week’s B.C. government announcement that the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people would not be lifted until a vaccine is developed or herd immunity attained sealed the fate of Victoria’s marathon.

“Every city, province or country is in a bubble of its own with different regulations. We have to follow our provincial regulations,” said Noel, who has managed the Victoria marathon for 19 years.

Jonathan Foweraker, president of the Victoria Marathon Society, concurred.

“We are deeply disappointed to have to cancel the event, especially after a very successful 40th race last year, but we need to respect the order from the provincial health officer,” he said.

“We are sensitive to the impact this will have on our valued sponsors, community partners, vendors and volunteers as well as our incredible participants, who had the 2020 event as their race goal. This will also have an unprecedented impact on our charitable partners, who crossed the $2 million threshold last year.”

Noel said that cancelling five months out allowed the Victoria marathon event to make some key savings.

“We were able to defer our shirt order to next year. That made the decision easier,” she said.

Noel touched on the democratic nature of road races and said the cancellation stings as much on a human as business level.

“We welcome large and small and fast and slow to our start line and that won’t be happening this year,” she noted.

The announcement is the latest in a long line of cancelled Island sporting events, including the Times Colonist 10K last month.

The Victoria HarbourCats baseball season in the West Coast League has been cancelled and the start of the Pacific FC season in the professional Canadian Premier League of soccer postponed. The situation is looking dire for the Victoria Shamrocks and Nanaimo Timbermen of the Western Lacrosse Association.

The Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League had the latter part of their regular season and entire playoffs cancelled. The Cowichan Valley Capitals and Nanaimo Clippers were preparing for the Island Division final when the B.C. Hockey League playoffs were cancelled.

The Canadian women’s rugby team was to have hosted the cancelled Canada Sevens this month at Westhills Stadium as part of its Olympic preparations. The Canada men’s soccer games against Trinidad and Tobago, considered key for 2022 World Cup Qatar qualifying in CONCACAF and scheduled for March at Westhills Stadium, were cancelled.

The cancellation of the 2020 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, rippled across the continent to Saanich and caused the cancellation of the Canadian Little League championship scheduled for August at Layritz Park.

The annual Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada DCBank Open, slated for June 4-7 at Uplands Golf Club, has been postponed. The Tokyo Olympic basketball qualifying tournament, originally scheduled for June 23-28 at the Memorial Centre, has been rescheduled to next summer to coincide with the new Olympic starting date of July 23, 2021.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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