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A four-time winner of the P.E.I. Marathon was saddened Wednesday to hear the run won’t take place this fall.
It is the latest event to be cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic.
“It’s one of those events in the fall people look forward to (and) train throughout the summer towards,” said Stan Chaisson, a Winsloe resident. “People will still get out and enjoy running and enjoy running with others, but there won’t be that big event to celebrate.”
He has run most of the 12 different races that are included in the P.E.I. Marathon Weekend and had a three-peat in the marquee event from 2016-18.
“We understand why (the decision was made),” he said. “There’s so many other events and things that have been postponed or cancelled. It’s unfortunate that these things have to happen, but it’s a necessity.”
Organizers left no rock unturned to try to find a way to pull off the event, while working with the Chief Public Health Office (CPHO). It submitted a couple of plans and received more advice from the CPHO on the weekend.
“All the measures to keep (people) safe during the weekend were just too great for us to take on to fulfil safety for all our participants,” said race director Myrtle Jenkins-Smith.
The group has been running – and growing – the marathon for the past 16 years.
Did you know?
– 2,822 people participated in the 2019 edition of the P.E.I. Marathon, up by 299 from 2018.
– The 2019 participants included people from all 10 Canadian provinces and one territory, 12 United States and four other countries (Nigeria, United Kingdom, Japan and Australia).
– This year’s event, the 17th annual, was scheduled to take place Oct. 16-18. It was cancelled on Tuesday night due to the pandemic. Registered participants will be contacted in the next few weeks with the option of a refund or to defer their registration until 2021.
– The pandemic previously cancelled the Evermoore Brewing Company 5 Miler in Summerside in May and the Georgetown five- and 10-kilometre walk/runs, which would have taken place this weekend.
“I never imagined this happening,” Jenkins-Smith said. “We’d get a glimmer of hope that we’re moving forward, making some progress and then (there would) be a step back.”
Currently, outdoor gatherings are capped at 50 on Prince Edward Island. More than 2,800 took part in the Marathon Weekend in 2019 with some categories having more than 600 participants.
They talked about reducing the number of categories to four with two taking place on Saturday and the remaining two on Sunday and implementing staggered starts, but there were too many logistical issues to work out to make it feasible. They included replacing volunteers after each category, transporting marathon runners to Brackley, drink stations and cleaning washrooms after every person exited.
“Even our simplified plan cannot meet all the guidelines,” Jenkins-Smith said. “It just couldn't work for us, and we have tried for months to try to figure out a solution.”
The cancellation is a hit to the economy.
“It’s definitely a big loss,” said Kevin Murphy, president of Murphy Hospitality Group, which operates restaurants, breweries and hotels in the Maritimes. “The marathon is a classic example of a perfect tourism product because it was off the main season.”
It attracted people to the province, filling up hotels and restaurants in mid-October.
“The city is full,” Jenkins-Smith said of Marathon Weekend. “It’s a big economic driver in October for this province.”
Murphy, who is also the spokesman for the Business Continuity Group formed this spring, said it is another blow for the tourism industry.
“All events have been cancelled, and that goes from weddings to family gatherings to the Cavendish Beach Music Festival and now the marathon,” he said.
“Everybody in our industry has been optimistic to see what the summer would bring, but … we know now that it’s not going to be a summer. We just have to do the best we can to really get through until (next) June and see what that brings.”
While the economy has been hit hard since mid-March, Jenkins-Smith said none of its sponsors had indicated any intent to pull their support for the marathon. She said that "speaks volumes" about the companies that believe in the annual fall race.
Chaisson said it is an inspiring, community event where many inspiring stories are shared.
“It just brings people together. It is a great loss,” he said.
“However, P.E.I. and Islanders, will come back next year even stronger.
“It’s certainly not going to slow down the running community and the great event that the P.E.I. Marathon has been over the years.”