COVID-19 claims the Detroit Free Press Marathon

Runners during the Detroit Free Press Marathon, 2014. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle.)

The coronavirus pandemic has stopped an international tradition in its tracks.

Organizers of the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon announced Friday afternoon that the 2020 edition of the race, set for mid-October, has been cancelled due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19. The cancellation was posted on the marathon’s official website.

“After considerable consultation with public health and safety officials as well as discussions with our staff, volunteers, sponsors and most importantly our participants, we are announcing that the 43rd Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon will be run virtually due to COVID-19,” read the statement.

The race will return to the streets of Detroit and Windsor in October 2021. Marathon officials, however, have promised that those who wish to participate in this year’s virtual event will not be disappointed.

“We are heartbroken and disappointed. However, we are working to create the most engaging and collective virtual experience possible. There are celebrations still to be had this year,” read the statement. “If we’ve learned anything from our community, it’s that the only way we persevere is together. So even if it’s virtually from our own start lines, we look forward to commemorating our achievements together, even if we’re apart.”

All participants who registered for the 2020 race weekend have been given several options. Athletes can participate in the virtual event, defer registration to the 2021 or 2022 race at no charge, or receive a 50 per cent refund of this year’s registration free.

Registered runners will receive an email on Thursday with instructions on how to proceed with these options.

The marathon is the only sanctioned 26.2-mile race to cross an international border, with the course doing so over the Ambassador Bridge, then the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel. The competition has been run since 1978, with this year marking the marathon’s first cancellation.