CENTRAL PARK, Manhattan (WABC) -- For the first time, the New York City Marathon will be a virtual event this year, due to the pandemic.
With the health and safety of athletes in mind, New York Road Runners is developing a new model for races to make a safe return this fall.
ALSO READ | Top athletes set to compete in virtual TCS New York City Marathon
On Saturday, organizers took a major step towards that goal. Daybreak ushered in the dawn of a new era in running.
In Central Park, hundreds of runners took the first steps in getting New York City back in racing form - the first running event was held in the era of social distancing.
It was billed as the 'NYRR Return to Racing Pilot 4M.'
"We're testing out some new procedures today in a socially distant manner - trying to bring racing back," said NYRR Race Director Jim Heim.
This four-mile race had a maximum field size of 200 runners split into four groups, making staggered starts. Athletes ran on a timed trail basis, with two runners taking off every ten seconds.
ALSO READ | NYC Marathon's first-ever winner runs lap to mark race's 50th anniversary
"Our last race we started five thousand people - we started 200 people today. But it's ok, you've got to start somewhere," Heim added.
Every runner had their temperature taken before the race. Their bibs were mailed to them to avoid crowding pre-race.
The course included hand sanitization stands at the start and finish, and every runner had to wear a mask.
It is clear that COVID has given rise to a new age in foot racing, but the runners took it all in stride.
Runners who took part in the pilot race will now provide key input on their experience to assist New York Road Runners in establishing appropriate protocols.
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a News Tip