ORGANISERS of the New Forest Marathon have been forced to cancel the event at Brockenhurst – but remain hopeful of holding races at another spot on a different date.
Event directors Chris Farr and Andy Daish confirmed this afternoon (Monday) it would not be happening on its 13th September date because Forestry England (FE) had decided against allowing the event because of the vast visitor numbers already present in the area.
The pair said in a statement: “The New Forest Marathon team live in the New Forest and have seen the increased pressure across the area as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Despite doing all we can to get the event on, we understand the circumstances under which this decision has been made.
“The New Forest is unique and we need to do our bit to ensure it stays that way. We understand that this decision does not just affect the New Forest but covers Crown Land across the country.”
However, they said they were still hoping to “move all or part of the 2020 event races to a new location and a possible new date”.
They went on: “We feel it would be such a shame to not stage a race this year and will update you shortly.”
Chris and Andy said that following the government publicising guidelines for the return of events in July, they had “created a robust plan to make this year’s event 100% compliant”.
Among the ideas mooted was separating the four main events into bubbles, single-file starts with traffic light systems and releasing one runner at a time with 10-metre gaps in between.
They also proposed one-way systems within the race village, sterilisation zones, the removal of spectators/traders/live music, re-routing the full marathon to minimise the footprint of the event and reducing presence around residential areas.
Those measures had been praised by UK Athletics and stakeholders, they said, but they acknowledged Covid-19 created “many indirect issues” and the increased pressures placed on society and FE, as well as the surge of visitors post lockdown.
In a statement FE said: “The New Forest Marathon is a key local event and we have been working closely with the organisers to look at ways to support it again this year on land managed by Forestry England.
“Unfortunately we have come to the decision with the marathon organisers that this will not be possible due to the current pressures on the Forest due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Since lockdown eased, unprecedented numbers of people have been drawn to the New Forest, putting a huge strain on its limited facilities and extremely vulnerable habitat. An event of this scale attracts large numbers as well as concentrating other visitors to the Forest into a smaller number of very popular areas.
“This would make it extremely difficult to meet the government’s Covid-19 public safety requirements for all of those visiting and looking after the Forest, and for us to fulfil our role of protecting the landscape the wildlife and supporting the communities of the New Forest.
“We share the disappointment that this event, like so many other similar ones around the country, is not taking place on the Forest this year.”
New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne added: “I am hugely disappointed that this event is not taking place as planned, we need to do everything possible to ensure the event goes ahead at full capacity next year.”