UPDATED: El Paso, Texas -- The annual El Paso Marathon and its associated events will still happen this year, but the race will look a little different than the past.
Due to Covid-19, the marathon, half-marathon, and 5K events will be held on three separate days and will have to follow state and federal health guidelines. The number of live runners allowed to compete will be capped to 500 runners per race this year to avoid overcrowding.
"It's not as big as previous years, but there's people out there that want to run live events, and they're really hungry for it,” race director Mike Coulter said.
Live runners will have to wear face masks in crowded areas, such as the start and finish line, and start the race six feet apart from each other. Each runner’s time will start as soon as they cross the start-finish line.
The events will start with the 5K on Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m., followed by the half marathon on Feb. 13 at 7:00 a.m., and the full marathon will be on Feb. 14 at 7:00 a.m..
A major difference this year will be how runners can actually participate in the race. First-time marathon runners and anyone who wants to participate away from crowds now have the option to race virtually from their home.
Runners that register as virtual participants have from February 6 to February 21 to run the required length to receive a finisher’s medal. Virtual runners can run the distance anyway they want, and can even run the actual course before or after the live race days.
"Running is our outlet. It means a lot that they're having the marathon,” Leith Labrado said.
He has been a runner for the past 12 years. When the pandemic shut everything down, Labrado had a hard time not running as often.
“We didn't run. We didn't do anything. I was going crazy,” Labrado said.
That’s why race organizers wanted to put on this race. Coulter wanted to give people an outlet to help with their quarantine stress, no matter how they run the race.
"We're providing an opportunity for people to be active physically and how that carries over to the mental side of it, especially for a runner,” Coulter said.
Coulter says the race has already received 900 registrations.
If the race is cancelled due to an increase in Covid, live runners can switch to a virtual registration or can defer to the 2022, 2023, or 2024 races.
All live races will start and finish in Ascarate Park.
Runners and volunteers can sign up at elpasomarathon.org.