It goes without saying that we’re living in unprecedented times.
While COVID-19 numbers were expected to diminish through the summer months, the opposite has proven true—and with no predictable“end” in sight, this has forced race and event organizers around the world to drastically pivot or even cancel their events.
It’d be easy to say things like “things aren’t great right now” in this space, but that’d be neither productive nor completely true. Sure, races and events can’t be held as originally planned, but this pandemic has presented an opportunity for the entire industry to streamline and adapt. Don’t forget—your athletes are just as eager for things to return to normal as you are.
So here we’ve gathered a few ideas to help get your event back on track under COVID restrictions, including ways to protect your athletes and volunteers and promote social responsibility with your participants. Remember, these are rough guidelines—refer to local agencies for rules and regulations in your area.
No Physical Race Registration or Expo
As much as day-of registrations and race expos are part of the race-day experience, it’s best to cancel for the time being and only offer an online alternative. This will protect volunteers and sponsors and reduce your numbers before, during and after your event. Keep sponsors in the loop with your plans, propose a virtual race bag, outline sponsorship opportunities(brand the live feed, e-blasts, social posts, training plans, mailers, etc.) and consider mailing samples and promo items directly to the participants.
Your event needs to take on a “one for all, and all for one” mindset. As part of the registration process, clearly outline your expectations for how all athletes should act and conduct themselves and have them sign a virtual contract acknowledging this.
Make a clear schedule of when and where to pick up their bibs (if you aren’t mailing them directly), where to park on race day, what time to arrive, and what time their heat goes off. Set rules for queuing up for the appropriately-spaced portable bathrooms, where they’ll get their temperature checked and when and where they need to wear protective face masks. It needs to be emphasized that everyone needs to follow these rules in order for the race to have a chance at continuing.
This number will change depending on your local restrictions, but most areas will have a cap on how many people can gather at any given time. Obviously this cap will likely be exceeded for larger events, so to work around this, create “heats” for your race where groups of athletes go off in set time increments (from chutes with six-foot spacing between athletes), with a pre-set arrival time (provide different bibs for each “heat”).This gap also allows the course to clear to minimize the number of athletes outrunning at any given time. Of course you’ll need to include chip timing since the heats are staggered, too.
All volunteers and staff members should be wearing masks and gloves, and plenty of hand sanitizer should be available for both volunteers and athletes. Also, minimize the number of water stations on the course and have athletes pick up their own cup (space out the cups on the tables) instead of being handed a cup by a volunteer as the run by. Post-race, have athletes drop their chip in a receptacle instead of having a volunteer take it off, and have prepackaged bags that can be easily handed over that includes their medal and post-race nutrition/hydration. While we all want to celebrate after finishing a race, make sure to keep your athletes moving through the chute.
Unfortunately, this means encouraging your athletes to leave their cheering squads at home to reduce the numbers present at your event. As they cross the finish line, provide separate areas out of the finishing chute for each athlete to meet a supporter or two for a few minutes before they move on. Providing a live stream your event on social media (for example, the finish line can be streamed on Facebook, and a midpoint can be streamed on Instagram) is a great way for your athletes’ friends and families to catch a piece of the action without being there physically.
Provide a Virtual Component
If we’ve learned anything through this pandemic, it’s that even the best laid plans can be derailed overnight as local policies change. Protect your brand by including a virtual race from the very beginning (instead of rushing to throw one together last minute), and if the physical event has to be cancelled, your athletes will have the option to switch to a virtual race and still earn their medal. You likely won’t get 100 percent of your athletes to convert—some will want their registration to roll over to next year or cancel and get a refund—but at least you’ll be able to retain some revenue and plan what’s next.
DISCLAIMER: FOR HOSTING EVENTS SAFELY, IT IS IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW YOUR LOCAL OR STATE ORDERS. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT MEDICAL, HEALTH OR LEGAL ADVICE AND ACTIVE NETWORK, LLC IS PROVIDING THESE SUGGESTIONS BASED ON GUIDELINES PROVIDED BY THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC).ACTIVE NETWORK, LLC DOES NOT MAKE ANY REPRESENTATION THAT FOLLOWING THESE STEPS WILL PREVENT ANY CURRENT OR FUTURE INFECTIONS OR SICKNESSES OF YOUR EMPLOYEES OR CUSTOMERS AND ACTIVE NETWORK, LLC WILL NOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY RESULTS,POTENTIAL INFECTIONS, OR LEGAL CONSEQUENCES IF YOU DECIDE TO REOPEN YOUR RACES BY FOLLOWING THESE SUGGESTED GUIDELINES.