OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Over 800 runners are expected to be hitting the pavement this Sunday as the Omaha Marathon hosts its 45th year of races, though of course with the coronavirus there will be a few changes.
The Omaha Marathon is racing into the spotlight of the running world. It’s one of only a few marathons still taking place across the country in 2020.
“All of the big ones have been canceled, so Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, all canceled," said John Eickman, vice president of HITS Endurance, which presents the marathon.
Because Omaha is not a hot spot, HITS Endurance and the Douglas County Health Department were able to devise a plan to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus while hosting the event.
Runners will be required to wear a mask up until the time of the race, and runners will be released in waves to maintain social distancing. Hydration stations will only feature bottled water, and dry bags will not be available.
Spectators will be spread across three viewing areas located at 16th and Capitol, Miller Park and Carter Lake.
The traditional awards ceremony has also been eliminated to reduce crowd sizes. Instead, three male and three female winners will be given their medals as they cross the finish line.
Around 820 runners are signed up to run this Sunday, about half of what the marathon would see in an average year. Around 350 are running the full marathon, 300 running the half marathon and about 100 runners are running the 5K and 10K each.
Though there were many races canceled around the country, organizers don’t expect many out of state runners to attend with COVID still being a concern.
“We’re actually pretty pleased with the number," Eickman said. "It’s a number that will be easy for us to control and therefore easier for us to keep safe.”
Organizers are hopeful that things will run smoothly, and that they can attract outside runners to attend in future years.
“Omaha will actually be on the map, for the reason that, the Omaha Marathon is taking place," Eickman said.