Twin Cities Marathon organizers are planning for a field of 4,000 runners Oct. 3 to hit the streets from Minneapolis to St. Paul, bringing back an autumn fixture as the coronavirus loosens its grip on allowable public gatherings.
Twin Cities in Motion announced Tuesday that marathon registration will open at 10 a.m. April 8 online at tcmevents.org. The popular TC 10-mile race also is a go, with a field size to be determined and a lottery drawing to occur midsummer. TCM also will run its 5- and 10-kilometer races and family events Oct. 2 in St. Paul. Clearly, though, sensitivity to the pandemic will remain a backdrop for participants and spectators, with an emphasis on social distancing and fewer "touchpoints" in TCM's calculations. Runners will need to wear masks everywhere when they aren't racing.
"We know how important it is to exercise for mental and physical well-being. We just feel really strongly that we can help the community," said TCM executive director Virginia Brophy Achman said. "This is something we can offer."
TCM's announcement comes as in-person races become more commonplace. The organization ran its "MNy250" last weekend at Boom Island in Minneapolis: three separate races over several hours with fields of 250, the maximum allowed under state mandates. All three filled. The virtual option filled at 250 runners, too.
Grandma's Marathon, which was canceled last year for the first time in its 44-year history, is back in June, also with modifications. The marathon, half-marathon, and 5K will be run June 17-19 in Duluth. Registration filled by December, with the marathon and half-marathon fields both capped at 4,000.
Twin Cities marathoners, 10-milers and other entrants don't just have the usual mile splits and weather forecasts to consider. There are possible changes to a typical race day from start to finish, variables in play that Brophy Achman and her team are prepared to adjust between now and the first weekend in October based on public health.
• Participants might get specific times for bib pickup at the expo to minimize crowding.
• Gear drop on race day might be eliminated, with participants dropping bags at the finish area the day before.
• Participants might receive specific times to arrive in a corral and begin running.
• Participants might encounter fewer aid stations, with liquids distributed in sealed bottles.
The Twin Cities' version of the marathon truly is a spectator sport. Thousands of people line the Chain of Lakes and Summit Avenue, among other places, in a normal year, but they will be limited, too. Spectating is discouraged for now, and TCM will limit crowds at places such as the finish line in St. Paul on the Capitol grounds where so many thousands congregate year to year.
New, too, is the registration policy. TCM will partly refund runners' registration fees if the races are canceled because of COVID-19.
The race weekend returns after a dark year for organizations such as TCM, which lost $1.9 million in expected registration revenue. Marathon weekend plans will breathe life into TCM's fundraising mission. Dozens of nonprofits rely on the marathon to raise money and awareness of their work. Runners raised more than $1 million at the 2019 race.
Brophy Achman said TCM was determined to hold the marathon, in some form and based on health guidelines, this year rather than wait until 2022. The progress in vaccinations has supported the decision.
"We want to provide a safe event. This is what we do for a living. We move people. We always have. It's what we are good at," she added.