Utah races canceled, organizers look to virtual runs for revenue

Thousands of people run through Provo Canyon during the Utah Valley Marathon on June 1, 2019. This year’s race was canceled because of the pandemic. (Utah Valley Marathon)

Events across the state are being canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, and local races are no exception.

Normally there is a half marathon, marathon, 5K or 10K nearly every weekend in the summer, but this year races are being canceled or postponed to comply with state and national health guidelines.

The Utah Valley Marathon was scheduled for June 6 and was canceled last week after the governor’s office said it posed too much of a risk, race founder Hyrum Oaks said.

Oaks and other race employees had made a plan to ensure the race met health guidelines including taking every runner’s temperature, a staggered start and no crowds at the start and finish lines. “We’re talking about 50 to 100 people at a time in a 10 minute time period (and) getting to the starting line potentially by yourself,” Oaks said.

According to Oaks, the governor’s office was not aware of this plan when it decided to cancel the race.

Race organizers are allowing registrants to defer their registration to next year or participate in a virtual run this year and still receive a 2020 shirt and medal. Oaks said he hopes runners will choose the virtual option because it will help the race lose less money than they would if all runners chose to defer. Prior to canceling the race, Utah Valley Marathon had already incurred almost $200,000 in expenses, and Oaks said many of those costs are non-refundable.

“Those people that are choosing to do the virtual option are helping us in a profound way because if at least some of the revenue is actualized this year, it helps offset some of those expenses we’ve already paid for,” Oaks said.

Runtastic Events puts on 10 races around Utah throughout the year. In addition to these events, the company has added four virtual races to help the business continue during the pandemic and to keep in touch with runners. Content Marketing Manager Tyler Clark said there has been a great response to these new virtual races.

“We surprisingly have had thousands more than what we thought we would participate in our virtual runs. The numbers are continuing to grow as we speak,” Clark said.

Madeline and Benton Tullis planned and ran their own marathon. Many races are being canceled or postponed after the pandemic. (Madeline Tullis)

So far the company has postponed the Dino Half in Vernal from May 9 to July 18. “We are closely watching each race that is coming up within the next couple months to make sure we are following state and city guidelines to keep our runners safe,” Clark said.

BYU student Madeline Tullis and her husband ran a marathon together on their own without signing up for a race on April 27. “We were hoping to run one in the late summer so that we would have time to train after classes got out,” she said. “With remote learning, we had quite a bit more time so we trained and then decided to just do it.”

Tullis said there was less pressure to run her fastest without the traditional race setting, but her dad and sister helped by meeting up with the two runners throughout their run to give them snacks and water. “Our marathon was definitely more relaxed and low-key, but I think we didn’t push ourselves as fast as we could have.”

Tullis said she did miss how a race is exciting and hyped up. “It’s always a blast reading the signs and feeling like everyone is cheering you on.”

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