Race directors have announced that they have been forced to cancel the tenth edition of the Seneca7, a 77.7-mile relay race, due to the COVID-19 virus.
The race was to be held Sunday, April 26, and would have featured 350 seven-member teams running the circumference of Seneca Lake. The Seneca7 begins in downtown Geneva, with runners heading south along the west side of Seneca Lake, through Yates County, Schuyler County including Watkins Glen, and Seneca County, before returning to Geneva for a finish line celebration.
“This is uncharted territory,” says race co-director Jackie Augustine. “We’ve held the Seneca7 nine years in a row, in all kinds of weather, and we’ve never had to consider canceling before this year.”
Augustine says that race directors initially hoped to delay their decision until closer to the race date as they monitored events that were unfolding, hopeful for any good news. Prohibitions on group events and the governor’s announcement of a statewide shutdown, together with health officials’ suggestions that the need to quarantine could last for weeks, or even months, led them to announce their decision sooner than planned.
“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our athletes and our community,” Augustine says. “We were heartbroken making the decision to cancel, but we just weren’t willing to put the health of our athletes or our volunteers at risk.”
Race co-director Jeff Henderson says that the he and Augustine feel especially bad about the cancellation since it comes on the heels of closures that effect the wineries and restaurants the race is designed to support.
“The economic impact events like the Seneca7 have on a community can’t be understated,” Henderson says. “Going from more than 2,000 athletes visiting the region to zero – that’s certainly going to have an effect on local businesses.”
One thing Henderson and Augustine weren’t willing to allow to go to zero was the support the race provides its not-for-profit partners.
“We’ve committed to helping all of the charities that support the race,” Augustine says. “For the most part these are small organizations, and they depend on this event as part of their budget. As you can imagine, their need is only increasing as the community’s needs increase with these difficult times.”
Organizers say that, while athletes who were to participate are disappointed, many had already reached out before the decision was made to offer their support.
“Many of our teams have been with us since the beginning, and they were as excited as we were to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this race together,” says Henderson. “But they understand that, in times like these, some circumstances are simply out of our collective control. We’ve already heard from a number of athletes asking us if we’ve set a date for 2021 – we’re all optimistic that life returns to normal by then.”