All over the world, the starting guns are standing down, high fives from the sidelines are falling silent and at the very least, water cups at aid stations are giving way to bottles. And now it’s happening here.

The spread of COVID-19 is forcing race directors to evaluate the risks associated with holding recreational events could serve to transmit the coronavirus, particualarly as local governments issue advisories aimed at limiting exposure.

On March 11, Pacers Running canceled its Fairfax Four Miler (March 14) and St. Pat’s 5k/10k (March 15) and the Anne Arunel County Department of Health cancelled the B&A Marathon (March 15). The Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon, Half Marathon and 5k (March 28) and Scope it Out 5k (March 29) lost their D.C. permits after the mayor’s office declared a public recommended against gatherings of 1,000 or more people. The Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile announced March 12 it planned to stick to the April 5 race date but is allowing more deferrals through March 19. The Lucky Leprechaun 5k has postpoed until June 14.

Earlier that day, the D.C. Health Department recommended that “nonessential mass gatherings” of 1,000 or more people  “congregate in a specific location” be cancelled or postponed, through March 31.

Cherry Blossom falls on April 5, outside of the D.C. recommendation range, and draws an international crowd. Race Director Phil Stewart said he was taking guidance from public health and municipal officials, “all of whom at this point are advising that events should go forward with participants taking extra precautions including things like frequent hand washing and simply not showing up if they don’t feel well,” he said. “We have ordered extra hand washing stations for the staging area. Initially, for sustainability considerations, we were going to serve our post-race water in cups for the first time in many years, but due to COVID-19 concerns we will be reverting to serving it in 16.9 ounce bottles once again.” 

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