The highlight of this year’s Engadin Skimarathon competitions should have taken place on 8 March: the 42 km race from Maloja to S-chanf. However, ten days before the world’s second-largest cross-country event, it was announced that the competition and all other races in the marathon week could not take place. The reason for cancelling the event was the start of the spread of coronavirus in Switzerland.
At the beginning of the year it all looked so promising: the 14,200 starting places for the 42 km race were filled 58 days before the competition, earlier than ever. «The preparations for the races were proceeding very well. We were confident, and our anticipation increased every day», said Menduri Kasper, CEO of the Engadin Skimarathon. One week before the starting pistol was due to be fired for the first race, the women’s race, coronavirus slowly but surely became an issue, as the spread of the virus in Italy was also reported in Swiss media. And suddenly, things developed very quickly: on Sunday, 23 February the cantonal authorities were contacted. On Monday, the first internal crisis meeting was held to discuss possible ways of protecting the participants and helpers. However, events took on their own momentum, and on Thursday, 27 February it was decided to cancel the event.
In just three hours Menduri Kasper’s team prepared the communication as many questions – some of which had not yet been asked – had to be answered. The Engadin Skimarathon was the first event of this size to be cancelled due to the spread of the coronavirus. The reactions towards the organizer were basically very positive, and the participants were understanding. Nevertheless, for the CEO the cancellation was a sad and highly emotional moment: «We work all year long for one week, one day. Everything was ready – and then the races couldn’t take place.» It’s understandable that Menduri Kasper was pleased when the marathon week was over. Time to look to the future.
The ski marathon suffered a considerable loss as a result of the cancellation. Now that the consequences are clear, there are three pieces of good news. The loss can be covered by provisions made in previous years – this is the first piece of good news. The second should please the 17,000 or so participants affected by the cancellation. They will receive more money back than is stipulated in the regulations. «It is important for us to reimburse as much as possible of the participation fees. This is only possible thanks to extraordinary action by the sponsors», Menduri Kasper says gratefully. As a «presenting sponsor» Helvetia was able to make its contribution to the athletes now receiving either CHF 35 – or CHF 25 for the half-marathon and CHF 20 for the women’s and night-time race – back instead of CHF 16.
Finally, some more good news for all ski marathon fans: the competitions will take place again in the Engadine in 2021. Save the date of 14 March 2021 to attend the next Engadin Skimarathon. Registration is now open. You can find all the information about the event here.