Despite an uncertain future for the two largest race events in the city, leaders in the Columbus running community showed positivity and consideration for safety during the Virtual Sports Report, presented by Marathon.
Darris Blackford, race director for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon and ½ Marathon, and David Babner, race director for the OhioHealth Cap City Half Marathon and founder of M3S Sports, joined the third episode of the Virtual Sports Report, giving insights on the status of both premier citywide events. With the pandemic’s effect on mass gatherings and sporting events, both race directors discussed adapting their events to the everchanging times while providing comfort to their loyal community of walkers and runners.
Originally scheduled for April 25, the OhioHealth Cap City Half Marathon’s team made the difficult decision as the pandemic worsened in early March to postpone the race until August. After speaking with local government and health officials, it became clear that race directors had to act in the interest of public safety.
“No one was more disappointed than me,” Babner said. “But obviously we have to do the right thing for the community as a whole.”
The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon and ½ Marathon, traditionally held in October, is still scheduled as planned. But Blackford realizes that that could change at any time during this “new reality” of precautionary measures.
Both race directors, however, trust in the team of community leaders, government officials and health partners who will help them make these decisions.
“They’re looking out for the community aspect and the impact it’s going to make,” Blackford said. “So they’re going to work as much as they can to make things favorable for all of us.”
During the waiting period, both events have gotten creative to keep Columbus running.
In lieu of running with training groups, Blackford said the Columbus Marathon is providing a virtual gathering each Saturday morning to kick-off participants’ long training runs by themselves.
Babner stressed the positivity that the OhioHealth Cap City Half Marathon has tried to spread on social media, providing contests and encouraging followers with chalk messages throughout Columbus.
“One of the great things about the Columbus running and walking communities is they’re incredibly resilient and positive,” he said. “Whenever we’re down a little bit [because] this is event week and we can’t put on our event, you look on social media and some of the messages they’re giving keep me going.”
Although the future of sports remains uncertain, Blackford and Babner said they’re confident the leadership in Columbus will help develop best practices for the rest of the country for mass participation events.
Until then, they stay excited for the reunion of the city’s passionate runners and walkers at their storied Columbus races, whenever they may be.
“We won’t produce an event that’s not safe for everyone to participate in,” Babner said. “But when [it’s safe again], we’ll produce a celebration like folks haven’t seen before.”
The Virtual Sports Report, presented by Marathon, returns each Thursday at 11 a.m. for a conversation offering an inside look at Columbus teams and sports professionals. You can learn more and register for free here.