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A return to road racing in the Maritimes?

Fredericton Marathon plans for in-person event, while Blue Nose Marathon waits for change

3 min read
People are shown running at the start of the 2019 Fredericton Marathon.
caption Organizers of the Fredericton Marathon are hoping it will be in-person this year, like it was in 2019.
Paul Jordan

After a 2020 season of cancelled, postponed and “virtual” races, runners in Nova Scotia are hoping this year will be different.

The Fredericton Marathon has opened registration for an in-person race in May. It’s the first race in the Maritimes to announce a possible in-person event in 2021, and around 200 people from Halifax have signed up.

Nursultan Sulaimanov is one. He registered because he’s trying to qualify for the 2022 Boston Marathon, which means he’ll have to run the Fredericton race in under three hours.

caption Nursultan Sulaimanov ran the 2018 Istanbul Marathon. Now he’s signed up for the Fredericton race with the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Nursultan Sulaimanov

“I heard the news that Fredericton would happen and I was hoping I would get a spot and I just jumped at it,” Sulaimanov said.

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Others did the same: the marathon is sold out, as are several other distances. Over 1,000 people have signed up for the event, and nearly one-third of those are from Nova Scotia.

Sulaimanov knows that unless the second wave of COVID-19 gets under control in New Brunswick, the race won’t happen. But he’s trying not to think too much about that. Instead, the possibility of an in-person event helps him stay motivated and disciplined in training.

“With a race coming up and you sign up for it, the attitude and the level of intensity changes completely,” he said.

COVID-19 and gathering limits

Most of New Brunswick is at the Orange public health alert level. For in-person road races to happen, this would need to shift to Yellow. At that point, according to New Brunswick’s COVID recovery plan, sports tournaments and larger events may be permitted, subject to the approval of a plan.

The Fredericton Marathon plan, not yet approved by the province, includes spreading events over three days. If postponed, the next possibility is a September race date.

In Nova Scotia, organizers of the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon are still deciding what their 2021 version will look like.

“It’s really hard to plan right now just with so much uncertainty, but we’re looking at all options,” said Neal Bagnall, senior manager of race operations.

In non-pandemic times, the Blue Nose takes place in May and attracts over 12,000 people. In 2020, it was pushed to November and went virtual. People ran alone, but were encouraged to run on the same weekend to “bring back that event feel,” said Bagnall.

He said they’re not ruling out an in-person event for this year, but gathering limits in Nova Scotia would need to change first. Currently, Nova Scotians can gather in groups of 25 for sports practices, but competitions or events are not allowed.

Bagnall said they expect to come up with a plan for the Blue Nose by the end of February.

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About the author

Sarah Moore

Sarah Moore is a journalist from Calgary who is working in Halifax.

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