CONWAY — Douglas Mercer and Ariel Perry will not get to defend their titles in September at the White Mountain Milers’ Half Marathon.
Officials announced Monday that the race's 35th annual running won't happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health and well-being of our running community are of the utmost importance,” said White Mountain Milers President Theresa Struble.
“Due to coronavirus-related health and safety concerns for runners, spectators, volunteers, staff and the many partners that support the event, we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s event,” she said.
The race, which traditionally draws more than 250 runners and walkers, had been scheduled for Sept. 19. A 2021 date has not yet been set.
Struble said participants who already registered to compete in the half marathon or any of the event’s other races can either transfer their entry fee to the 2021 event, obtain a refund (minus an administrative fee) or contribute the fee to the Gretchen B. Hatch Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The club gives about $7,000 annually to the fund for college scholarships for local student athletes;, plus $1,000 to the Kennett High School cross-country and track and field teams for uniforms and other items; and $2,000 to local non-profits that always provide volunteers for the event.
Struble added: “While we can’t celebrate the connecting power of hosting an in-person, organized race this year, we certainly encourage everyone to get outdoors, keep running and keep training.
"We look forward to running one of New England’s most scenic and beautiful half marathons once again next year.”
News of the cancellation appeared on the Milers’ Facebook page on Tuesday and drew more than 30 thumbs up, crying and heart emojis along with a few comments.
Catalina Kirsch posted: “Thank you for making these difficult but prudent decisions and putting public health and safety first! I hope many will continue to support the scholarship fund.”
Jamie Webb wrote: “Hugs! As much as we all want to participate, it’s a very wise decision to cancel. We will be able to do it again in the future, for now, we must stay safe and healthy.”
Chris Osborne wrote: “It’s tough, but it’s the right call. We’ll be there with ya next year!”
Last year, the race was moved up a month on the calendar after snow, sleet, wind and rain in late October 2018 prompted race officials to move the event to the third weekend in September.
However, in 2019, runners and walkers encountered the opposite end of the spectrum — 90-degree temperatures and high dew points.
This year's course, the same as the previous four years, was to have started at North Conway's Schouler Park, then run south to Conway, where runners would encounter one of the only hills on the course, Bowling Alley Hill.
The course takes a right turn onto East Side Road through the 1890 Covered Bridge. Runners then turn right onto West Side Road.
The course turns right onto River Road for the last uphill of the day and then right onto Route 16 into North Conway Village to the finish line.
Mercer, 32, of Laconia won last year’s race in 1:23:30, while Perry, 30, of Portland, Maine, was the fastest female in 1:35:25, which was good for sixth place overall.
The Milers also announced Monday that the eight-week White Mountain Milers Summer Trail Race Series, which traditionally takes place every Tuesday at Whitaker Woods in North Conway in the summer, is another coronavirus casualty.
“The decision to cancel the remainder of this year’s events was not an easy one,” the board of directors for the White Mountain Milers posted.
“While we can’t celebrate the connecting power of running an in-person, organized race, we encourage you to keep running and keep training. Celebrate the outdoors, the beautiful weather we’ve had and stay safe. We share in your disappointment and we appreciate your continued support.”