Whidbey Island Marathon goes virtual for 2020

— Created September 2, 2020 by Kacie Jo Voeller

By Kacie Jo Voeller

            Those interested in running the Whidbey Island Marathon can participate in this year’s event from anywhere, as the marathon has gone virtual for 2020.

Jared Loranger, owner of Fizz Events, said those who are not already registered can sign up for the virtual edition of the iconic race until Sep. 20. The full- and half-marathon run/walk options are $60, while the 10K/5K distances are available for $30. Runners can complete the distance anytime, anywhere between now and Sep. 20 and can upload results online. Loranger said the hope is to offer a safe option for runners and walkers to take part in the event, albeit in a different format than usual.

“We want people to still look forward to things, not just our race but doing things,” he said. “Obviously, with so many events and so many running races and gatherings canceled, it is hard to get out there and it is hard to keep yourself motivated.”

Loranger said the race, which is owned by the City of Oak Harbor, was moved to virtual participation only to keep residents and participants safe. Loranger said each year, the race typically has participants from 30-35 different states. With the potential risks posed by traveling and the possibility of transmission of COVID-19, Loranger said organizers of the event and city officials felt it would be best to move forward virtually.

“We made the decision out of an abundance of caution,” he said. 

Loranger said the decision was made at the beginning of August, but prior to announcing and advertising the switch to a virtual race publicly, everyone who had been signed up for the race was notified.

“We wanted all of our participants to know what was going on before they started seeing ads for a virtual run that they thought they were doing live,” he said. 

Loranger said more race swag will be available to participants, and for those who had already registered prior to the virtual rates, next year’s race would be offered at a largely discounted rate. 

“You get a different response from different people,” he said. “Some are super stoked that something is still happening, some people really like the swag, some people do not want anything to do with virtual.”

Loranger said the swag offerings will include a participant shirt, custom finisher’s medal, bib and a custom running buff. He said packages will be mailed out to all participants, whether local or living in another area, so it will not be necessary to pick anything up.

“We want to make sure everything is as contactless as possible for everybody and make sure they stay safe,” he said.

            Loranger said completing the race virtually adds flexibility to the event, and allows participants to get creative, whether it is creating an at-home finish line or challenging a friend who lives in another state to also complete the race.

“One of the things that I think is the main advantage is you can do this thing anywhere,” he said. 

Loranger advised participants to remember to keep safety in mind, wherever they choose to complete the course.

“On a safety note, more importantly, if you are running on roads, they are not closed,” he said. “We are obviously not out there with cones, we are not out there with traffic control and police officers to help control those intersections. So if you are running the Whidbey Island course or another busy roadway, make sure to follow the rules of the road and remember you are a pedestrian and you still only have those same accessibilities as you would as a person walking on a sidewalk. Be safe, but have fun with it.”

Moving forward, Loranger said the 2021 Whidbey Island Marathon has been moved from April to September 12, 2021, with registration opening in January 2021.

            “We have already chosen to push our marathon date from the historical April date to September of next year in hopes that we will see either a vaccine or other medicines that come in to kind of help alleviate everything that is going on right now,” he said.

            In the future, when in-person races and events return, Loranger said he feels there will be a greater awareness of safety, and new policies and procedures for races may have to be implemented, such as having multiple start times and personal protective equipment available.

            “A lot of the running community is based on gathering, so it is going to be hard to come back and produce a race with people making sure they feel safe unless we have different protocols in place,” he said. 

            In the meantime, Loranger said the focus will be on providing a quality virtual experience to keep people engaged in staying active.

            “Our goal is to continue to help keep people motivated, help keep them running even without in-person events,” he said. “We see a lot more people are doing these sort of things (virtual races) because it is a good way to stay motivated. If your gym is not open, you can still go outside and run, you can still ride your bike, you can still go for a walk.”

            For more information or to register, visit runwhidbey.com.