Half-marathon in Montreal goes ahead, with COVID-19 safety measures in place

In a first since the beginning of the pandemic, three races were held in Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal Saturday.

430 runners participated in the five, 10 and 21-kilometre races in Parc Jean-Drapeau

In a first since the beginning of the pandemic, three races were held in Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal Saturday. (Antoine Deshaies/Radio-Canada)

Sporting life is slowly finding some semblance of normalcy. For the time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec, a half-marathon took place in Montreal on Saturday. 

The race of five, 10 and 21 kilometres was organized by We Run Montreal. It made some changes to comply with physical distancing measures, including staggering start times and dividing runners into small groups.

A total of 430 runners participated at the races held in Parc Jean-Drapeau. 

Louise Desmarais was one of them. She spent the last month or so preparing to run the five-kilometre race. After recovering from a surgery she had to undergo this winter, she said it felt good to slip back into her running shoes.

"I was excited this morning when I got up," Desmarais said. "It's the just atmosphere and it's always a great joy to participate in a race."

Runners had to maintain a two-metre distance and were given a maximum amount of time to complete their race, depending on the distance.

When runners crossed the finish line, they also had to leave the site immediately to avoid gatherings from forming.

"We're not having podiums or award ceremonies. We're giving them a bagel and cream cheese and they're invited to leave the site," said Paul Brunet, the president of We Run Montreal.

"But there's still that camaraderie you find at races."

Patrice Brunet, the president of We Run Montreal, said the organization is vying to host another race in October. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Brunet says he hopes to organize another race in October and says he intends on submitting his candidacy to organize the annual Montreal Marathon for next year. This year's race was cancelled because of COVID-19. 

Olympic runner Charles Philibert-Thiboutot also participated in Saturday's race, running the 10-kilometre. He said he used the event to train. The 1,500-metre specialist won, finishing in 31 minutes.

He said the race helped him regain a sense of normalcy, too.

"You find some of the sensations you might usually have in a race," Philibert-Thiboutot said.

"You might get butterflies in your stomach like in a normal race, but without the crowds and the big pack of runners.… It was a fun, short run."

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio and Radio-Canada's Antoine Deshaies