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Leave It to the Half-Corked Marathon to Come Up with a Good 2020 Disguise

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Half-Corked Marathon runners dress in costume and run, walk, or stumble from one winery to the next. The 2020 event was cancelled because of the COVID-19 crisis. (Photo by Kieran Frey)

The pandemic may have pulled the plug on the 2020 Half-Corked Marathon, but Oliver and Osoyoos Wine Country is easing the sting for racers by bringing the fun to them.

Race organizers with Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country organized a 12-stop roadshow over 16 days in British Columbia and Alberta in August and September. Runners with entry tickets for the 2020 event were invited to taste wines they would have sipped on the route and pick up a race swag bag and picnic pack from Oliver Eats Ltd.

They also got a bottle of Half-Corked Marathon white blend from Oliver-Osoyoos winemakers and a choice of a second bottle from the region’s vintners.

Discover More: Half-Corked Marathon Full of Fun

The annual event is Canada’s most flat-out fun run, with more than 1,400 participants dressed up in outrageous costumes, many of which work a wine theme or puns. Many run as a group. The course, usually about 19 kilometres (12 miles) long, changes each year. It meanders through various vineyards in Oliver and Osoyoos, with stops for wine and food every kilometre. It’s the one race where speed doesn’t count.

The roadshow made a Vancouver Island stop on September 2 at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse in Saanichton, just up the Saanich Peninsula from Victoria.

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What does it take to win a Half-Corked Marathon costume contest? Tinker Bell and the Peter Pan team offer some inspiration. (File photo by Adrian Brijbassi for Vacay.ca)

Servers poured tastes from Gold Hill Winery, vinAmité Cellars, Moon Curser Vineyards, and Oliver Twist Estate Winery. Tasting stations were set up outside with physical distancing for safety and views of the ciderhouse tasting room, rows of fruit-laden apple trees, and the ocean beyond.

Jennifer Busmann of Oliver and Osoyoos Wine Country said when the 12th edition of the race was cancelled ahead of its usual May date, organizers hoped there was a chance for a September event. When that wasn’t possible, the idea of taking the race to the runners was born.

The 2020 Half-Corked Marathon Virtual Festival includes best costume contents and an exclusive race route video for registered runners that was sent out on September 12.

“Some of our wineries on the route got a little creative during the video and we’re going to roll that out to participants only, so they can use it while they’re running on the treadmill or enjoy it while they’re using a stationary bike. Or sit on your couch with a glass of wine and just enjoy the beauty of Oliver and Osoyoos,” Busmann said.

Twelve days of digital race experiences will follow, including virtual wine tastings and behind-the-scenes winery tours with owners and winemakers.

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They couldn’t get to the South Okanagan Valley for the Half-Corked Marathon, which has been cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, but Erin Miles and Elisa Villanueva were still able to collect some wines during the event’s road show to Victoria. (Linda Barnard photo for Vacay.ca)

The Half-Corked Marathon is a hot ticket, with 8,116 vying for a 2020 race spot via lottery.

An undetermined portion of the 1,450 registered runners for this year will get first crack at early-bird tickets to the 2021 or 2022 Half-Corked Marathon.

Erin Miles and Elisa Villanueva made a day of it when they came about two hours from Qualicum Beach for the Roadshow stop, visiting Church and State Wines vineyard in Saanich.

“We were super bummed, so we made the best of it,” said Villanueva. They’ll save their run costumes — they planned to dress as “retired Hooters girls” — and hope they get in next year.

As running pals Stephanie Richter of Victoria and Kala Chaulk of Sooke picked up their swag bags, they said they were disappointed to miss their first Half-Corked Marathon but added they’ll reapply for 2021.

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Linda Barnard is a British Columbia-based travel writer who covers stories geared to energetic and experience-driven 45-plus travellers for Vacay.ca.