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Maui Marathon goes virtual for 2021

Eventual winner Craig Benson leads runner-up Kengo Yoshimoto along the Olowalu shoreline during the Maui Marathon on Sept. 18, 2016. This year’s race, which had been scheduled for April 25, has been changed to a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

It wasn’t an easy decision, but it appears to be the best one for the Maui Marathon.

The marathon, half marathon, 10K run/walk, 5K run/walk and marathon relay will all be held virtually after the event’s board of directors voted to do so late last month, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Registration for all of the events on the slate is now open. A news release from the event said “Mileage can be completed at any location in Hawaii or on the Mainland between April 1 and April 30, 2021.”

Race director Jon Emerson said that the decision by the Valley Isle Road Runners board was the only realistic way to save any part of the 2021 event.

“For ’21, we gave it as long as we could,” Emerson said via phone on Saturday. “We got a couple of letters from state and county and what have you — it’s not their fault, we were just getting information from these guys. And listening to other events that are pushing it off …

Medals are lined up at the finish line of the 2017 Maui Marathon

“About the 27th (of December), I got the committee together … we kind of got together and said, ‘OK guys, are we going to pull this trigger or not?’ And we decided we’re just going to pull it — it would just be safer for everybody.”

The news release said, “Due to a rise in coronavirus cases throughout the state and nation, limited medical staffing, and continued changes to Maui County guidelines and protocols, the in-person Maui Marathon originally set for April 25, 2021 had to be canceled.”

Emerson said in the release, “Runners are struggling to adjust to the abrupt change in plans but rather than letting the goals of runners go unfulfilled, we are offering a virtual run with all the swag. As for the full race experience, let’s hope that the virus will be under control and we can have an in-person event for 2022.

“Runners will have 30 days in April to finish the race they register for, uploading times to the registration website.”

Those already registered up for the in-person 2021 Maui Marathon can automatically compete virtually, or will have the option to roll over their registration to next year’s event on April 24, 2022. There are no refunds.

Runners who choose to transfer registration to 2022 must let race officials know by March 15 by emailing registration@mauimarathon.com.

The 50th edition of the race was moved from Oct. 11, 2020 to April amid the pandemic as well.

“A lot of these people, this time around, they were wonderful about it,” Emerson said. “The first time I kind of caught some heat for it, but this time — I got some emails today that said ‘Jon, I totally understand, we feel for you and thanks for letting me know.’ It was really nice, which I was surprised about.”

There will be a packet pickup for the virtual Maui Marathon from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 24 and 25 at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, where participants will receive their race shirt, bag and participant medal. Runners not able to pick up their packets on those dates will receive it by mail.

To register or for details about the virtual event, visit mauimarathonsignup.com.

For more information about the marathon, visit mauimarathon.com.

“We’ve got a lot of new people signing up just for the virtual run now,” Emerson said. “This is pretty good.”

He said the event will stay in the month of April going forward for at least the immediate future. This year’s event can take place wherever registered runners may be.

“It’s a virtual run, meaning that you don’t have to run the course,” Emerson said. “All you have to do if you’re running the marathon is run 26.2 miles — in a lot of cases you can break it up between five days if you want to. … You can run anywhere you want, you can run on a treadmill — there’s a lot of people who are back East who are buried in the snow or 17-degree weather.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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