BADDECK, N.S. -- One of the most punishing and grueling races in the Maritimes has been cancelled for the first time in its history because of COVID-19.

For decades, the Cabot Trail Relay has been attracting runners from around the world to Cape Breton. But there will be no mad dash towards the finish line this year, as the popular event has been sidelined because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In keeping with the advice from the medical community, and we’re in this for the long haul, it was kind of a no-brainer,” says Dave Parkinson, Cabot Trail Relay organizer.

This was to be the 32nd year for the Cabot Trail Relay, which would have been held May 23-24.

The 300 kilometre race takes runners through beautiful scenary, but is also challenging with its steep hills and terrain.

The event is also know for its camaraderie and party-like atmosphere. But organizers say having more than 1300 runners this year just wasn’t safe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve had a team withdraw, we’ve had teams lose their flights, and there was growing concerns from the community,” says Parkinson.

The cancellation of this year’s relay a disappointment for runners and a blow for businesses that rely on the event too.

At this time of year the village of Baddeck is usually gearing up to welcome visitors, as the race is a big economic boost that relies on tourism dollars.

“It’s great for the business for sure,” says café worker Dave Ross. “We get a lot of returning people, so we see a lot of familiar faces. It’s definitely a busy weekend for us.”

“As beneficial as it is to local business, I’m more concerned about the impact of the slowdown of the broader tourism season,” says Parkinson.

Since 1988, more than 23,000 runners have participated and organizers believe the race has brought in more than $8-million into the communities around the trail.

CTV’s own Ryan MacDonald has been preparing for the May 23rd weekend, and like many runners, he’s disappointed.

“For some runners, they’re ramping up their training, especially on hills to get to 17 kilometres to complete a leg of the relay, and they would’ve been doing that through the harsh winter months,” says MacDonald.

For now, organizers say safety is a priority, and are hoping the relay will return in 2021, bigger and better than ever before.