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Chicago marathon canceled because of the coronavirus

Organizers and city officials cite the challenges of staging a large-scale event during the pandemic.

Runners begin the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 12, 2014.
The 2020 Chicago Marathon has been canceled because of the pandemic.
Sun-Times file

The Chicago Marathon, which draws runners from across the globe and typically almost 2 million spectators, has been canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It’s only the second time in the event’s history that it has been cancelled, organizers said.

The challenges of staging a large-scale event at this time, as well as concerns for the safety of participants, volunteers, event staff and spectators, all led to the decision.

The marathon, now in its 43rd year, was to be held Sunday, Oct. 11.

“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,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a 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.”

Registered runners will now have the option of a refund or defer their place in the race and entry fee to a future Chicago marathon — either in 2021, 2022 or 2023, organizers said.

“Hope drives us as runners and as humans. 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,” Carey Pinkowski, the event’s executive race director, said in a statement.

“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.”

The marathon was last canceled in 1987 due to a loss of sponsors.

Runners across the city and beyond were saddened by news, but it was not, they said, unexpected.

“The Chicago marathon is really the pinnacle moment in running for Chicago, and it’s one of the greatest marathons in the entire world,” said Greg Hipp, executive director of Chicago Area Runners Association, which has about 11,000 members — from elite to beginner level. “So it’s not just affecting our local running community, it’s runners all over the world.”

Joe Sobus, founder of The Warriors Runners Group, said he understands the reason for the cancellation.

“It’s important to make sure everyone is safe,” said Sobus, whose group runs in about half a dozen city neighborhoods. “Even though people are saddened by it, it just gives people an opportunity to look forward to next year.”