RUNNERS who had been hoping to complete the Omagh Half Marathon at the end of March can now do so in a virtual race until the end of August, following an announcement from organisers.
Over 4000 athletes and recreation runners had been planning to take part in the town’s largest mass participation event. But it was postponed due to the coronavirus and the decision has now been taken to only have it as a virtual race only.
It means that those who had been registered for the event can now still receive their medal and race t-short by completing the 13.1 mile distance in their own location and on a date of their choice between June 1 and August 31.
“Because of these exceptional times, the rise of virtual races has been a fantastic way to motivate runners to say fit and every virtual runner will help ensure that we can make a good donation to our charity partner, the Air Ambulance NI,” said Race Director, Michael Ward.
“We could proceed properly obviously due to the regulations in place to combat coronavirus. But ultimately, the decision to go virtual wasn’t a difficult decision and we have offered those who had pre-registered a number of different options.
“They can complete the virtual run which is the next best option, the entry can be deferred until next year or they can receive a refund or donate their entry fee to the Air Ambulance.
“It’s hard to know how many will take up the option of doing the virtual run. But we have been talking to other race organisers and our expectation is that there will be an uptake upwards on 50 per-cent.
“Runners don’t have to do the actual Omagh Half Marathon route, we won’t be monitoring whether they do it in a specific time. Even if they want to complete it over two different times, then that’s up themselves because obvious there hasn’t been the opportunity to train with the same intensity as would usually be the case.”
Mr Ward says it is hoped to organise the 2021 race around Easter time next year, and hopes that the in meantime those who had been preparing for the race will get back to or continue to enjoying the fitness and mental health benefits of exercise.
“We will be providing further information for people who do decide to complete the race virtually and hope that they will mark the achievement in what is understandably unprecendented circumstances,” he added.
“The initial feedback that we have received to the decision has been positive.”