Although rates of COVID-19 have dropped in New York, officials feel the risk of a 50,000-person race is too high.

The world’s largest marathon, the New York City Marathon, was officially canceled due to continued concerns about coronavirus on Wednesday. Being one of New York’s biggest yearly events, the announcement came as a shock to many.

This November, the New York City Marathon would have celebrated its 50th anniversary. It is a yearly spectacle in New York and a stamp of the fall season.

On the endurance sports calendar, the event attracts over 50,000 participants, 10,000 volunteers, and almost 1 million spectators. Fans are known to line up around the 26.2-mile course that covers New York City’s five boroughs.

NYC officials and organizers of the event, the New York Road Runners, determined the race had too many health and safety risks to those participating and attending.

Many public health experts have deemed mass events a danger to the public until a coronavirus vaccine or treatment is made widely available. Experts have specifically advocated against events that bring people together from different parts of the world, or that require traveling for those attending.

Although infection rates in the New York metropolitan area are some of the lowest in the U.S., White House officials have already issued several warnings regarding another wave of COVID-19 infections in the fall. Spikes have already been seen in the majority of U.S. states in the past week.

It is evident the areas that have not listened to government officials’ advice to practice social distancing measures have continued to see the spread of the coronavirus at concerning speeds. As of Tuesday night, 26 cities had reported a spike of cases.

The Economic and Emotional Effects

Abiding by health regulations while hosting the world’s largest marathon will simply not be feasible. Not only has the cancellation left participants and fans upset, but it will also negatively affect the endurance sports business economically.

The chief executive of the New York Road Runners, Michael Capiraso, claimed he and other executives were originally hopeful of still hosting the race before making their decision to cancel the event. Considering they were already spending money, executives decided to cancel the race before needing to spend more.

Capiraso claims that although he was holding out hope for the 50th anniversary of the New York City Marathon, the past few months and even weeks have proven hosting the race to be a poor choice.

Like many events in past months, the NYC Marathon will be changing its format to a virtual event. Those who signed up to race this year were offered the chance to choose between a total refund or the ability to reallocate their entry to another race within the next three years.

Runners are also allowed to participate in the race through their virtual event. The New York Road Runners announced they would post more details about the event in July.

Traditionally, the New York City Marathon begins at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The runners wait in a set-up of corrals for a cannon to sound and signal the start of the race. With this in mind, abiding by social distancing guidelines would be impossible.

The race has only been canceled once before when Hurricane Sandy disrupted the area in 2012. With the recent cancellation, the New York City Marathon has become the third of six major marathons to be axed in 2020.

Fortunately, organizers have cancellation insurance, which will help minimize the amount of debt they will face. The marathon is their signature event and main source of revenue. Every year, the NYC Marathon brings in more than $100 million.

In 2012, the race’s cancellation caused angry runners to insist the race was still taking place until two days before the race was scheduled. Thousands of runners made the journey to New York to participate or spectate regardless and had to return home without racing.

Many are continuing to train simply for the love of training. The organizers’ decision has been met with praise and frustration, as can be expected from a decision affecting so many.