As we all know, major marathons across the county and the world have been canceled, or postponed due to the seemingly endless pandemic. While the Austin Marathon is still optimistically set as a live event for February 14, the Chevron Houston Marathon, scheduled for January 17 is now a virtual event.
But like football and baseball, the sport of running has found ways to adapt.
Take the London Marathon, which took place on October 4. While they did offer a virtual event, the actual race was limited to just a small field of elite men and women. What’s more, the race organizers contained the course to St. James Park, and did not allow any spectators. So ultimately, you still had an exciting race as sports fans saw (Shura Kitata (ETH) — 2:05:41) and Brigid Kosgei (KEN) — 2:18:58 take victory.
The Marathon Project, set to take place on December 20 at the Gila River Indian Reservation in Chandler, AZ is designed in much the same way. It’s a pro-only running event, staged on a contained, multiple loop course with numerous safety protocols in place. The race does have a virtual component for non-elites that will begin in November.
The elite field will feature 50 men and 50 women competing on a flat, fast course, shooting to un under 2:16 (men) and under 2:24 (women). The women’s race includes such talent as Sara Hall, who just set a PR of 2:22:01 while claiming second place in London, while Augustus Maiyo—fifth at the 2020 Olympic Trials in 2:10:47 is the men’s favorite.
The concept appealed to Ready to Run store manager Rory Tunningley, who boast a personal best of 2:16:25 for the 26.2-mile distance.
“I was excited to get into this race as it is a race with very fast competition and similar depth of the Olympic trials,” said Rory Tunningley, a former Longhorn cross-country captain. “It’s an invitational race with 50 men and women, very similar to how the London marathon was run with no spectators, so it can keep everyone a little safer due to the current risks associated with COVID 19.
Tunningley has been coached by Austin’s John Schrup for the past four years and is, running about 80-90 miles a week to prepare for the race.
Runners will circle a fast 4.3-mile loop six times, and with the average December low temperatures in the 40s, the race is specifically designed for fast times.
“I hope to run a PR at the Marathon Project and then return to run the marathon again at Grandma’s Marathon in (June) 2021,” said Tunningley.
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