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Shamrock Marathon Weekend is on for Virginia Beach with all-new, COVID-safe race

The capacity limits will be different, the timing will be different, the courses are new and it will kick-off at King Neptune.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — We're coming up on a year of COVID-19 in the U.S.

So many events were canceled in 2020 and already Norfolk called off its 2021 St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“About 30,000 people show up to watch the parade,” said Norfolk Vice Mayor and parade committee member Thomas Martin. “With current guidance, we just didn’t feel like we could do that safely.”

Still, a lot of organizers are looking at how to not miss out in 2021. That is especially true in Virginia Beach. As the city is seeing more record-breaking COVID case days, the organizer of the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend has some ideas on how to keep runners safe.

Their luck ran out when COVID forced them to cancel their 48th weekend last year.

“The big tent was already up on the beach; everything was set, and the Governor declared a state of emergency,” said J&A Racing Co-director Jerry Frostick.

The 49th year brings a one-of-a-kind, COVID safe, race.

“There is no, 'On your mark. Get set. Go,'” Frostick said.

To cut the crowds, racers can run the 8K, half or full marathon any time over the weekend between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.

“You’ve got 10 hours a day that you can go at your own pace,” Frostick said.

The three new courses are spread out around Virginia Beach, along the Boardwalk and sidewalks, not the main roads. Races will still be timed.

The biggest changes of all are the limited capacity, and no party tent to celebrate.

Frostick said their usual 25,000 race count will be between 5,000 and 7,000, with many of those runners doing it virtually.

“It’s a huge difference,” Frostick said.

The tradition jumpstarts the summer season for Oceanfront businesses.

“All the businesses have supported this for 49 years,” Frostick said. “And they’ve had a really tough year, as all of us small businesses have.”

Frostick said running is also just good for the soul, especially during a global pandemic. His team is focusing on positivity and changing luck for their 49th year.

“It’s not the same experience, we acknowledge that,” Frostick said. “But it’s what we can do, instead of what we can’t do.”

The Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend has been welcoming nearly 25,000 runners to Virginia Beach since 1973. The 49th race is set for March 19- 21.