It will be “extremely difficult” to hold the London Marathon this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the founder of the Great North Run, Brendan Foster, has said.
Foster’s event, due to be staged on 13 September with a record 60,000 adult participants, was cancelled on Monday because of the insurmountable challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak.
A decision on whether this year’s London Marathon – already postponed from April to October – can go ahead is expected to be made on Sunday.
“Mass participation events in the form that ours takes, and the London Marathon takes, are clearly going to be extremely difficult to hold and it’s going to be up to us to find a formula for the future,” Foster said.
More than £20m was raised for charity by the Great North Run last year, and Foster admits the sector will be “hurting” as a consequence of the cancellation. He said it would have been impossible to make the race Covid-secure, adding that the start line “would have stretched from Newcastle to Berwick” with two-metre physical distancing in place.
Organisers are now focusing on making next year’s edition, already scheduled for 12 September, the biggest and best event possible.
“It’s in our DNA to run, and to run in groups,” Foster said. “We have been doing it for two million years, so there’s no way that a pandemic like this is going to blow away man’s endeavour in terms of running, and running together. Running together has been there for two million years, this isn’t going to stop it.”
Another consideration in cancelling the race was the pressure on health workers, with more than 500 having previously volunteered their time to take care of any participants with any medical issues.
“We’re obviously very sad and disappointed, but putting it in perspective we’re not in pain and anguish like people who have had the disease and nor are we devastated like families who have lost loved ones. It is a blow but it is nothing like others have suffered.”
Organisers are working on an extension of the Great Run Solo virtual project, which challenges runners of all abilities to set particular targets and raise money while doing so. The Great Manchester Run on 6 September has also been cancelled, with the next edition of the race set for 23 May 2021.