Runners make their way along the river during the Sioux Falls Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Photo: Abigail Dollins / Argus Leader)
The Sioux Falls Marathon is going forward despite COVID-19.
Well, kind of.
With the pandemic still here but runners desperate for a real outdoor race, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority will host a half-marathon as a lone event this Sunday. The traditional marathon, 10K and 5K will not be held.
The Sports Authority has been putting significant resources into improving and building the race over the last half-decade, adding a race Expo, improving the course, and retaining Boston Marathon qualifier status, so being forced to cancel is disappointing. But given most other major marathons around the country have also canceled, organizers and runners are just glad there’s a race at all.
“My boss (Sports Authority director Thomas Lee) said it’s like going to a Metallica concert and having just one guitar,” said Austin Bramley, Sports Authority project director. “You still get the concert, just not the whole thing. But the response in the running community has been very positive. They’re thrilled they have a race to run at all.”
Yes, the Sports Authority did consider canceling the entire event. They toyed with the idea of a “virtual race” which other organization have done, in which runners plot their own course, send officials an image of their GPS and get T-shirts, medals and race merchandise mailed to them.
But Bramley said he and Lee decided they didn’t want to punt on holding an actual race. So they pared down the event to only the half, choosing that one because it’s the most popular. They capped the number of participants at 600, or roughly half of the typical sign-up.
There will be no pre-race Expo, no live entertainment and no post-race beer, and there will be staggered starts to keep runners distanced. The race used to begin and end in the Denny Sanford Premier Center, now it will start on the service road between that building’s north end and Howard Wood Field.
The west parking lot at Howard Wood (behind the press box) will be blocked off from cars and used as the runner’s warm-up and pre-race area. Runners are asked to wear masks there but are not expected to wear them during the 13.1 mile race.
Water stops throughout the race will consist only of tables with bottled water for no-touch stop and pick-up. Runners will then pick up their T-shirt, medal and post-race banana and water on their own. While in the past race officials have encouraged runners to congregate pre- and post-race for the party-like atmosphere runners crave, this time they’re being asked not to linger after the race.
The race begins at 7 a.m. on Sunday. The event, typically held the second week of September, was moved up to avoid conflict with the Sanford International Golf tournament, which, in turn, had to move to avoid conflict with the Ryder Cup.