HELENA – After careful deliberation — and most importantly, considering the health and safety of runners, volunteers and the community of Helena — we have made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel this year’s Governor’s Cup.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) has presented the Governor’s Cup for the past 42 years and was the main sponsor during the race’s first five years. The race’s mission has always been to promote health and wellness in a family-friendly environment. That’s why the Governor’s Cup is the primary fundraiser for the Caring Foundation of Montanasm, which enhances access to preventive health services in rural and underserved populations across the state.
“The best way for the Governor’s Cup and BCBSMT to make a positive impact on the health of our running community is to cancel this year’s event,” Governor’s Cup Race Director Bryan Haines said.
To say this is disappointing would be a massive understatement. This would have been the 47th running of our event – one of the longest-running foot races in Montana – that welcomes thousands of runners to Helena and serves as the unofficial start of summer.
We’re disappointed that a sea of kids in brightly-colored shirts won’t kick off Governor’s Cup weekend with our Kids Marathon and Fun Run at Centennial Park. We’re disappointed that we won’t be up well before sunrise welcoming marathon and half marathon runners downtown, shuttling them to their buses to take them to their respective starting lines. We’re disappointed we won’t be celebrating with every runner as they come up historic Last Chance Gulch before crossing the festive finish line.
COVID-19 continues to disrupt our world, and though there is encouraging news emerging each day, there remains a great deal of uncertainty. If we cannot be 100 percent certain we can safely host our race, then for everyone’s safety, it is the difficult yet right thing to cancel.
There is no doubt that as we emerge from this initial wave, life is not going to instantly snap back to how it was in January or earlier. The world has changed, and it is imperative that we continue taking steps to help prevent another wave from crashing through our communities, state and country. Social distancing has gone from a buzz term to the best practice to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.
Each year nearly 4,000 runners compete in our events. Nearly 10% travel in from out of state, and overall 45% come from outside Lewis and Clark County. If you have ever toed our starting line, you know keeping six inches apart can be hard, let alone six feet. Our finish line is tight and intimate, which is part of what makes the Governor’s Cup such a desirable event, but hard to practice social distancing. Add in close to 300 volunteers, Governor’s Cup staff and loyal spectators, race weekend is a fabulous event that also serves as a potential hot spot for transmission of this virus.
Options for Registered Runners
We know this is difficult news for those who have already registered. Runners have been training and already had made plans to come to Montana this June and cross the finish line in historic Last Chance Gulch. Now that we know this isn’t possible this year, the Governor’s Cup is offering the following options to registered runners:
- OPTION 1: Defer current race registration to the 2021 Governor’s Cup with no fee
- OPTION 2: Request a 50% refund of their 2020 race registration fee (minus processing fee)
- OPTION 3: Make their race registration fee a donation to the Caring Foundation of Montanasm to help provide access to preventive health care
An email will be sent to all registered runners on April 23 with instructions on how to select the cancelation option they would like to select.
Why Not Postpone?
The decision to cancel instead of postponing the race to a later date was made because the fall running calendar in Montana is already full, and a date could not work with all race partners. Not only that, school is back in session, fall sports will be in full swing, and it would be hard for our out-of-state runners to make the trek to Montana.
We hope that our advanced notice allows current runners time to change their plans. It also takes the guesswork out of the hands of potential runners weighing whether to sign up and risk a later cancellation. The advanced cancellation also means the race can offer an option of a partial refund to runners, as the Governor’s Cup has delayed certain race expenditures.
We thank our participants and volunteers for their patience and understanding during this stressful and unprecedented time. We know there will be disappointment and frustration. We are processing those same emotions.
The Governor’s Cup is a labor of love for us. It takes year-round planning by the BCBSMT Community Relations Team that culminates with showing off our great city and Big Sky country. While the developments and continued uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic have been pointing to this decision for weeks, it doesn’t make sharing the news any easier.
With every end there is a new beginning. The 2020 Governor’s Cup may have been canceled, but we invite you to be a part of the 48th edition of the race on June 11-12, 2021. We are already looking forward to when we all can safely get back together and watch your smiling (or exhausted) faces cross the finish line again.
Statement From Dr. David Lechner, BCBSMT Chief Medical Officer
“The Governor’s Cup brings hundreds of runners, volunteers and people together from our community, state and country. Traditionally, this gathering of people makes for a great event. This year, with a global pandemic, it is potentially dangerous to have a mass participation event like the Governor’s Cup. Montana has done a great job flattening the curve, but COVID-19 will continue impacting our lives after this initial wave of infections. Some models have predicted Montana has moved past its initial surge of COVID-19 activity. Those models also assume current levels of social distancing and other mitigation efforts are carried out through the end of May and potentially into June. It is important that even as we begin to relax stay-at-home directives, some measures of social distancing and mitigation continue well into the spring and summer. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and the Governor’s Cup have always been stewards of health and wellness. The best way to do that as we continue fighting COVID-19 is to not have this year’s race.”