Peter Delaney, executive director of RunVermont, said race organizers felt it would be insensitive to ask for volunteers from the health care professions at a time when the pandemic continues to strain hospital resources.
The compressed race will allow RunVermont to staff the event with EMTs from the Burlington Fire Department and only a handful of volunteers, Delaney said, instead of the up to 125 frontline workers who have helped in years past.
"It’s probably not the best use of their time to support a public event that is of a recreational nature," Delaney said. "Their skills and talents are probably better utilized in supporting the needs of the hospital and the medical community."
The change is sure to disappoint many runners who have been anxiously awaiting the marathon’s return after a two-year hiatus.
The event, which typically falls on Memorial Day and draws a crowd of 20,000, was cancelled last year over health concerns and then postponed this year until October 24. RunVermont then announced two weeks ago that it was pausing registration while it evaluated safety protocols.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 runners are now expected — far less than the 7,500 who typically attend. Delaney blamed the dip on two factors: The October race schedule is typically busier than May, he said, and some runners likely decided against signing up because of the Delta variant.
RunVermont announced Tuesday that participants will now be required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the race.
Race organizers notified runners of the changes in an email Tuesday and offered several options to those who didn't want to participate in the shorter race.
They can convert their entry into a virtual marathon, which allows them to run their 26.2 miles anywhere, anytime between now and race day. They can defer their entry to next year’s race. Or they can enter one of three other races scheduled over the next month: the Mad Marathon in Waitsfield; the Adirondack Marathon in Schroon, N.Y.; or the Eversource Hartford Marathon in Connecticut.
Delaney was optimistic that runners would enjoy themselves despite the revised plan. "We’re looking forward to the opportunity to put on a good race ... and hopefully take a step back toward normalcy," he said.