The Akron Marathon Charitable Corporation’s Board of Directors and staff have announced the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay, along with related race-weekend events, including the Health & Fitness Expo and the Kids Fun Run, which are scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26, will be held virtually due to COVID-19.
It also will include a "Blue Line Box" race-day kit. The Akron Marathon staff conducted countless scenarios while working with the Summit County Public Health, City of Akron leaders and race partners to determine any possible way to host its 18th annual event. After months of conversation, the event was deemed too great a risk for runners and citizens.
"The Akron Marathon excels at logistics and we always want to cover every possible angle for our runners, this year especially," said Anne Bitong, president & CEO of the Akron Marathon Charitable Corporation. "We explored hosting a physically distanced race which would lower our field to a maximum of 3,800 runners and it would take nearly two hours to get through the start line.
"These types of modifications, while easy for us to execute, would tax the City of Akron in extending road closures, plus the cost of newly identified items post-COVID, including masks and hand-washing stations, not only would our nonprofit be losing money—we’d be risking the well-being of our runners.
With every scenario explored, the Akron Marathon team and Board asked the following questions: Is it safe? Can we host the same top-notch experience that we always do? Are we OK with offering a different experience? Does it make financial sense? And every time, an answer came back negative.
"From the beginning, our top priority has been the health and safety of our runners," Bitong said. "We’re in the business of creating a world-class experience for our participants and even though it will be virtual this year, our team is working to ensure that the runners’ experience will still be one to remember.
"Over the last several months, we’ve heard your stories, seen your tags on social media and see this community still running their Blue Line. We can’t begin to tell you how much you’ve inspired us and with this virtual race, we hope to give you a little of that inspiration back to you."
Runners who have already registered for the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon, Team Relay or Kids Fun Run will have the option to keep their registration and participate virtually, donate their registration fee or defer their entry to a future race.
Race organizers will be reaching out to registered runners to communicate available options. Runners who have not yet registered can register for the virtual experience through June 30.
While the details of the Blue Line Box are still being confirmed, signature race elements like a runner’s bib and Akron Marathon swag, as well as a virtual Expo experience and virtual Finisher’s Festival are all being lined up by the team, with full support from its presenting partners, including the City of Akron, Akron Children’s Hospital, FirstEnergy, Summa Health, SummaCare and Signet.
"The Akron Marathon has a rich and vibrant history as one of Akron’s premier community events," Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said. "As Akron’s Mayor and an avid cyclist, the opportunity to serve as a lead bike for the marathon’s world-class athletes is a highlight of my year. While I share the community’s disappointment, I applaud the decision to put the well-being of participants first.
"Nothing can erase the Blue Line from our streets or our hearts and while we cannot share the experience together this year, I am confident the virtual event will be a memorable, inspiring alternative for our community."
"As title sponsor, FirstEnergy supports the decision to run The Akron Marathon virtually to protect the safety of everyone involved," said Charles E. Jones, chief executive officer of FirstEnergy. "We are committed to maintaining our support and offering virtual cheers for participants this year and our employees look forward to lining the streets in 2021 to support the runners."
Additionally, runners looking to go the extra mile can become a Children’s Champion or make a donation to support the patient care programs at Akron Children’s Hospital. Since 2016, Akron Children’s Hospital has served as the title beneficiary of the Akron Children's Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series.
"The FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay is a community-wide celebration each September and Akron Children’s Hospital looks forward to safely joining the runners, sponsors, volunteers and the community along the Blue Line in 2021," said Akron Children’s chief strategy officer Shawn Lyden.
To register for the virtual FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay, Kids Fun Run or to become a Children’s Champion, visit at AkronMarathon.org.