And another big Houston event hits the dust. The Chevron Houston Marathon announced Monday that its 49th annual race along with the 20th annual Aramco Half Marathon, scheduled for January 2021, will be held virtually this go-round, thanks to the ongoing pandemic.

“At this time, we recognize that there are many unknowns surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, but the safety and well-being of our runners, volunteers, partners, and spectators will always be our top priority,” Houston Marathon Committee Executive Director Wade Morehead said in a statement

How does a virtual marathon work, you might ask? Well, instead of everyone gathering to run en masse, runners will have a chance to complete their race anywhere, anytime … sort of. The virtual race can take place January 8–17, and runners, joggers, and walkers (hey, we don't judge) will submit their race distance timing information through their participant account. But still, you can run the race from anywhere—your neighborhood, circles in your backyard, Memorial Park (where the marathon was held for its first six years), the beach, or I-10 as you run the heck out of Houston (admittedly, this might not be the safest option).

Afraid you’ll miss out on all the free swag on race day? Don’t sweat it. Virtual participants will receive a box before their race full of sponsor gifts and messages, and finisher prizes will be mailed out within two weeks of the last day of the race, January 17. 

Thousands of people regularly come running to watch or participate in this Houston tradition. Last year 27,000 folks participated in both runs, and 8,537 gallons of free coffee were consumed in the GRB on race day. (Coincidentally, 400 portable restrooms were brought in for the weekend of events.)

Because large gatherings like this are still not a good idea during these Covid days—especially since there is still no vaccine—it seems prudent to cancel the in-person events. However, runners who have already registered for the event have the ability to opt in to the virtual marathon, which will also give them a discounted rate for the 2022 50th Anniversary Marathon. Participants can also defer until 2022 or 2023. Or, if you just want to hang up your shoes and call it quits, you can donate your entry to the Houston Marathon Committee.

Folks already registered for the 2021 Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon, or the We Are Houston 5K will receive instructions via email. 

“While we are unable to celebrate the 2021 event together in the heart of Downtown Houston,” said Morehead, “we will be cheering for our runners around the world as they participate in a unique virtual race experience, embracing the incredible spirit of our RunHOU community.”

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