By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - The New York City Marathon, one of the most prestigious events on the global running calendar, has been cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, race organisers said on Wednesday.
The New York Road Runners (NYRR), in partnership with the mayor's office, said the decision to cancel the world's largest marathon was made due to novel coronavirus-related health and safety concerns for runners, spectators, volunteers and staff.
The race was scheduled to take place on Nov. 1.
"Canceling this year's TCS New York City Marathon is incredibly disappointing for everyone involved, but it was clearly the course we needed to follow from a health and safety perspective," said NYRR Chief Executive Michael Capiraso.
The 26.2-mile race (42km), which traverses all five boroughs of the city, routinely attracts over 50,000 runners and more than one million spectators.
Former New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi said the race held a special place in his heart and he was sad to hear that this year's edition had been cancelled.
"These decisions are never easy, but keeping people healthy and safe is always the right call. I will see you in NYC for the 50th running in 2021!" Keflezighi said on Twitter.
Runners who signed up for this year's marathon, which would have celebrated its 50th anniversary, can either receive a full refund or choose to run the race in any of the next three years.
"As the latest U.S. major on the calendar for the year, this one stings," former Boston Marathon winner Des Linden wrote on Twitter.
"It also offers clarity for season goals and allows for patience and intelligence in mapping the way forward. It’s the right call."
Of the six World Marathon Majors, three have been canceled this year due to the virus with the Boston Marathon and Berlin Marathon also opting to shelve plans for their 2020 races.
The Boston Marathon, originally due to be held in April and then postponed until September, was cancelled this year for the first time in its 124-year history.
The Tokyo Marathon went ahead on March 1 with elite runners only, London was postponed to Oct. 4 from April 26 and the Chicago Marathon is currently scheduled for Oct. 11.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Catherine Evans and Ken Ferris)