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News and Sentinel Races put on hold for '21

April 10, 2021
News and Sentinel Half Marathon

Facing another summer in which the safety of mass gatherings and athletic events is still in question amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Parkersburg News and Sentinel representatives are postponing the return of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, Two-Mile Race and accompanying children's events until 2022.

"As we looked at all the aspects of staging an event this big, and all the precautions that would have to be taken to protect the volunteers and participants from the virus, we determined that the only responsible thing to do was to put the race off for another year," said Art Smith, logistical director for the News and Sentinel Races. "The more we looked at recommended guidelines for large athletic events, the more it felt like it would be irresponsible on our part to stage the races."

Hundreds of volunteers serve meals, hand out water, help at the finish and starting lines, handle registration and in general assist the more than 2,000 people who take part in running and walking in the events.

"Even though the nation is making great strides in getting people vaccinated, we know that there would still be plenty of people not yet protected from the virus in August. Children, for instance, are a large part of the two-mile event and are not yet part of any vaccination plan," said Smith.

Smith also cited the number of meetings and group projects that lead up to the public events in late summer.

"The races are not simply switched on in August; they take months of preparation, planning and the cooperation of individuals and groups across Wood County. As we started the process for this year's race, it became more and more apparent that it made more sense to put the race off for another year," he said.

Publisher Jim Spanner is looking forward to the return of a top-tier race weekend next year.

"As the long-term sponsor of the races we have taken great pride in staging this important community event. We want things to get back to normal as quickly as possible like everyone else. Canceling the event was the only option. There would have been simply too many people in too small of a space. We look forward to the 2022 race and a return to normalcy," Spanner said. "We want to do what is right for the community and have a race that is up to our standards."

City officials, too, are looking forward to the return of the half marathon and other races when it is safe to do so.

"As the primary sponsor of the half marathon, I respect the News and Sentinel's decision," said Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce. "This event has always been one that provided amenities and benefits to participants above and beyond the average race of this type. The potential for exposure, and necessary volunteers and in-person resources calls for careful consideration. I am confident the race committee and the News and Sentinel will be prepared to provide a world class event in 2022."



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