Adaptability is a key component of progress. Whether we are athletes modifying training, or race directors continuing to overcome the challenges of navigating races during a pandemic, it is vital to think differently. Learn how to create, host, and participate in a successful social distance race! Article helps both the host and participant.
What does it take for a race to yield successful in socially distanced times?
Many races are gearing toward a virtual race scenario (check out tips for virtual racing here), which many larger races find to be the only option. Or small races can plan a socially distanced race. This article gives a “how to” based on a successful socially distanced 5k in Grand Rapids, MI. The race was Team Orphans Social Distance 5k. Race director Rebecca Cruttenden says, “I would encourage another race director that it can be done! Everyone there was SO HAPPY to race!”
Below are key considerations for race hosts and racers.
What makes a socially distanced 5k better than a virtual one? Everyone runs the same course and it’s timed. The chip, per usual, is in the bib. The athlete picks up the bib and during their designated timeframe, their chip is activated at the start and records at the finish.
Prior to the event, instructions for your racers should be sent out.
Things to include:
- Follow social distance guidelines
- Course directions/instructions
- Parking instructions
- Packet pickup process
- Bring your own aid
- Please do not hang out after the race to minimize social contact
- Reminder how participants will receive their results
Signing up for a time slot
As the race day for Team Orphans Social Distance 5k approached, the rules had changed which would allow for 100 people to gather. Even though more than 10 would’ve technically been able to gather at once because of the regulation changing, it was still a more distanced environment which aided in the ability to keep the gathering to a minimum. Groups were often those who knew one another, even in the same household or team. This made for fewer circles to cross as well.
The time slots could also be based on time if a race wanted to keep a strong in-person competition. In that case, upon sign up, race directors would have runners submit their estimated finish times, and perhaps in some cases, their actual best recorded times for the sake of fairness.
Location is always a hurdle and major consideration for race directors. Although it’s possible to have a socially distant race in a city, there is a rural advantage to remain distant in more rural race courses. Cities themselves have been the major decision maker in regards to many races’ fate- whether cancellation or postponement. Team Orphans Social Distance 5k was predominantly run on trails in the woods which eliminated crowds watching racers.
As a road runner, I would love to perhaps see a dirt or paved race outside the city as I do not trail race. Obviously that is a personal preference, but it is worth mentioning as there is potential for diverse race locations.
Start and Finish
One of the observations we made about the success of Team Orphans Social Distance 5k was that the start and finish were near the parking lot, but in different spots. This strategy allowed for the disbursement of people, keeping participants more socially distant.
Results were not posted onsite at the race, because the race director, Rebecca Cruttenden encouraged participants to leave after their races (for social distancing reasons, of course). Instead of having the results posted, she texted the result. Results as always posted online per usual, but it added to the “realness” of the race by getting a notification.
Most races have special meaning, sponsors, or themes associated with them. This race was race money for Team Orphans for the adoption of children with special needs. One of major ways money is raised or Team Orphans is Clara Cookies. These professionally produced cookies designed by the race director Rebecca Cruttenden (who is also an Ironman) as race and training fuel for athletes. They were my recovery of choice during my Chicago and Olympic Trial training cycles. All participants of Team Orphan Social Distance 5k got a goodie bag with a super-secret never-sold-before brand-new flavor of Clara Cookies!
Adding a special touch like the cookie is a great way to add a level of excitement to an in person race, which is an advantage over signing up for a virtual run.
You MUST do more promotion. Rebecca says she had to advertise 4 times more than usual and got half the attendees of a normal year. It was vitally important to continue to remind people of the opportunity because many are just beginning to consider racing on their horizon. Don’t be discouraged.
Considerations for Racers
- Do your warm up off-site to avoid crowding the area.
- Keep a respectful distance from other racers.
- Do NOT hi-five.
- If spectators are permitted, tell your support people to spread out.
- Use sanitizer after your race (because most of us have touched our face during the race, right?)
- You are running against the clock. You are racing against others who are not in your wave as well.
- As always during this time, do not go anywhere if you’ve been exposed to the virus, experience symptoms, or have a fever.
There are undoubtedly more considerations for each specific race situation and location. As information, regulation, and discovery of the virus continues adaptability is key! If you have more ideas of how to put on a social distance race, please share in the comments below.
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