(Photo courtesy of SCMKL)
"The emcee calls for preparation. Tens of thousands of ambitious runners prepare themselves at the starting point. You can sense the nervous and exciting energy spreading from one to another, everyone in the space was eyeing on the grand prize. And then a gun-shot released into the air, that’s when you know your fight with the rest has begun."
Marathons are events that many people look forward to participating every year. Regardless if you are an avid runner or just a casual walker (or perhaps dragged along by your friends with the promise of fun), there is always a lure of excitement and participation in the air.
Sadly, 2020 has not been a favourable year for the sports and fitness industry. With half the year having passed by in the blink of an eye for most of us (agonizingly slow for others), a groundbreaking pandemic has disrupted our normal lives and gifted us instead with a lingering fear. More than 700,000 people have lost their lives (to date) to Covid-19 and medical experts believe an effective vaccine won’t be ready until 2021 (if we’re lucky). Most of us by now most likely acknowledge the fact that the virus is here to stay for quite a while more.
As a result, the abrupt disruption of air travel caused international tourism to plunge into its lowest point.
The unfortunate fall of our international tourism sector has also further negatively affected marathons, which are famous for international participation. With no clear timeframe in mine of when all this may pass, no one knows when would our favourite marathons can make a comeback.
Is this the end for our runners out there?
Well, this article discusses the current running scene, and share some interesting ideas that some marathon organisers are utilizing to pivot themselves in these troubled times.
Business, Profit and Losses - What is the New Reality for Marathons?
Marathons are events that do contribute quite a significant amount to a country’s economy. In this regard, Malaysia is quite similar to western countries, one of them being the likes of USA.
As a comparison, CNBC has broken down some data and statistics on the significant economic impact of marathons.
(Stats courtesy of CNBC)
As you can see, the marathon business has grown leaps and bounds into a multi-million-dollar industry. These highly popular events are a lucrative revenue generator for the tourism sector where participants from across the world travel to take part in them. In most times, anywhere between 40% to 95% of the revenue generated are mainly from race fees and these are the bread and butter of employees working under the event company. Besides, such companies usually outsource their merchandise making to smaller vendors.
When one race event is cancelled; employees, vendors, event organisers and the tourism industry all suffer at the same time.
(Stats courtesy of CNBC)
In Malaysia, the Standard Chartered Marathon KL (also considered as one of the country’s BIGGEST runs of the year) was also cancelled due to the lockdown measures. Rainer Biemans, the organizer of SCMKL admitted to Tough Asia that it was a hard decision to make closer to the event month when MCO was implemented. Though they were unable to fulfill their contractual obligations to event sponsors and partners, they have a solid back up from their MAIN sponsor family. Their contract with Standard Chartered Bank will last until 2022, which gave them ample resources to reallocate their resources. Without any revenue this year, they still want to keep their employees on full payroll without pay cuts and layoffs.
(Photo courtesy of Tough Asia)
(Photo courtesy of SCMKL)
Desperate Times Calls for New Ideas
With marathons cancelled, many organisers quickly assemble ideas to adapt to the new normal. In order to stay connected with athletes, organisations are implementing virtual runs to keep avid runners going in the midst of being on lockdown. For example, Ironman launched its’ virtual club to organize virtual runs for participants worldwide. The experience is definitely different from physical runs. The process requires runners to run the required race distance within a set time period and upload their results to the system.
(Photo courtesy of Ironman Virtual Club)
In Malaysia, virtual runs are quickly picking up the trend since our country managed to toned down the outbreak. If you are an avid runner yourself, you will find a variety of virtual runs in this Facebook group, Marathon Run Malaysia. Most the virtual runs are organized at a small scale. The most recent virtual runs are:
- Merdeka Virtual Run organized by NZinfiniti
- Virtual Run “Run for Tomorrow” by UUM
- Skechers Friendship Walk 2020 Online Edition by Skechers
- 21KM Virtual Run by Tritiq
At the moment, we didn’t see the big marathons like SCMKL and Penang Bridge International Marathon converting their usual physical event into a virtual event. So far, Penang Bridge International Marathon is still continuing their registration online.
(Photo courtesy of Penang Bridge International Marathon)
The Future of Marathons
If we take a long look down the road, regardless Covid-19 is stabilized or no, the possible health risk in marathons is unavoidable. Sports and fitness involve fast breathing and sweat, which has a high opportunity to transmit the virus further than just 6 feet.
A lot of factors depend on the country’s government authorities to grant the green light for organizing massive sport and fitness events. Some runners actually hope organisers to continue implement physical marathons with SOPs in place, the hopes are just very slim.