Runners take off at the start of the half marathon at the 2019 Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon & 5K in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The popular Old Port Half Marathon & 5K, scheduled for June 6 in Portland, has been canceled in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last year’s races had about 5,500 entrants and more than 4,600 finishers – 3,100 in the half marathon and 1,500 in the 5K – making the event the second-largest road race in Maine, next to the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth.

Race director Erik Boucher said Wednesday he is trying to work with the city of Portland to see if the event can be held at a later date, but “right now the city is not issuing any permits at all. We’re at a standstill until we get further notice if that’s possible.”

What seems more likely is that the race will be held as a virtual event, with registered runners submitting a time and then having their race-related goodies, including a medal, race bib, and T-shirt for the 5K or zippered vest for the half marathon, sent to them.

“We realize that people have travel and hotel plans and we needed to make this decision sooner rather than later,” Boucher said. “For this race, we have 70 percent of our runners coming from out of state. We have more runners from Massachusetts than from Maine.”

There are no refunds for the roughly 3,000 runners who have already registered, most of whom paid $69 for the half marathon or $29 for the 5K. Fees varied depending on when a person registered.

At the time of registration online, a no-refund policy was listed in the event of cancellation or postponement because of “weather, pandemics or other forces beyond our control.” The Old Port Half Marathon & 5K is organized by GiddyUp Events, a subsidiary of Rugged Races, a for-profit company that puts on races across the country. The race has gained a reputation as a fun-first event with a postrace party atmosphere, with beer and food tents.

The event’s website offers an explanation of why refunds will not be granted: “Please understand that we’ve already put a year’s worth of time and resources into preparing for the event, so we simply don’t have the resources to be able to offer refunds, transfers, or deferrals. With your support and understanding, we’ll survive this catastrophe and continue producing great races for you for many years to come.”

Boucher told the Press Herald neither refunding nor deferring entry fees to 2021 were feasible for his company.

“Our organization spent a good year planning this event already and there are a number of expenses, including salaries, but also expenses that are costs that can’t be recovered,” he said. “If we were to refund everybody, we’d go bankrupt. And a deferral is kind of the same thing but just kicking the can down the road.”

Other Maine road races that have been canceled have taken different approaches. The Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5K (scheduled for May 10 in Portland) and the Sugarloaf Marathon (May 17 in Carrabassett Valley) asked runners to consider either donating their entry fee to a primary sponsor, or accepting deferral of the fee to the next year (or next two years for Sugarloaf) – but a refund was an option in both cases.

Boucher said his company already has had to cancel several races this year and shift to a virtual format, including the Thirsty Leprechaun 5K in South Portland, which was supposed to be held March 14, and the Maine Coast Marathon and Half Marathon, which was supposed to be May 9 and 10. Neither of those events offered refunds.

“The notion of a virtual race has existed for awhile, but now since COVID-19, the whole running industry has plunged into virtual racing,” Boucher said.


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