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COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of Canada’s biggest marathon.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which was scheduled for Oct. 18 and traditionally draws Canada’s top runners because of its fast course, has been cancelled due to health and safety concerns.

“Sadly, we have reached a point where it is clear we will not be able to bring a mass event of 25,000 people from more than 75 countries, safely to downtown Toronto this October,” race director Alan Brookes said in a statement. “We have shared so many unforgettable moments over 30 years at this race and are enormously disappointed.”

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COVID-19 has shut down numerous major marathons around the world, including the storied Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, leaving runners in search of qualifying marks for next summer’s postponed Tokyo Olympics in a bind.

The Toronto race has seen some thrilling performances over the years. In his marathon debut in 2018, Cam Levins shattered Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old Canadian men’s marathon record. In 2013, Lanni Marchant lowered the 28-year-old Canadian women’s record.

This year’s Toronto marathon will instead be a virtual event to be held between Oct. 1-31, and will include two new distance options – a four-person marathon relay and a 10K – as well as the traditional marathon, half marathon and 5K.

The virtual event will continue to include a fundraising component. In 2019, Toronto Waterfront runners raised over $3.5-million for 190 community charities.

“Although this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will not be taking place in person, I want to thank Canada Running Series for putting the health and safety of spectators, runners and volunteers first by organizing a virtual event,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said. “The virtual race this year presents a great opportunity to train and stay active throughout the summer and into the fall… I know I speak for Torontonians across this city when I say I look forward to 2021 when we can come together again and celebrate our vibrant city.”

The Toronto Waterfront Marathon event contributed $35-million to the local economy in 2019.

“Since 1990, like running itself, we’ve had good days and bad days,” Brookes said. “We’ve learned to bear down and overcome injuries, illness, a multitude of setbacks and adversity. And now we have COVID-19.

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“But our community is made of sterner stuff: dedicated, determined, courageous and strong. Together, we will prevail and return to the races that are beacons of solidarity and joy in our country and our lives.”

Last year’s race featured 25,000 runners from 70 countries. The livestream broadcast had 132,000 viewers from 79 countries.

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