While my hamstring continues to heal, I’ve provided music mixes and announcing for races the past two weekends. Yes, races are happening again. And it’s working! From what I’ve seen it’s working for four reasons: (1) race organizers going the extra distance (literally) to figure out the requirements, go through the painstaking steps of writing them all down, putting them up on the website, and reminding runners about what they are agreeing to do, over and over; (2) a willingness by races to scale down some, maybe by as much as 50%. Makes the margins lower but it’s allowing races to take the first steps, to learn how to do races safely; (3) a big volunteer pool – there are jobs never needed before, like medical screeners and herders to move runners in different waves in the right direction, with waves lengthening the volunteer time commitment. And many of these volunteers have direct contact with a lot of runners — they are, in effect, front line workers; (4) and of course the runners, who wear masks up to their designated race time and then right after finishing; willing to race in waves, arriving at different times and not necessarily seeing the folks they normally race with; and not grumbling about the various inconveniences. The grumblers are staying away!
So we’re off, in a sense. It’s good the first races were a bit smaller. Good to build up the chops! The Unplugged Half Marathon in Burlington on October 24/25 will have 1,000 people. That’s a good size race! But it’s being run in four waves, one hour apart over two days. Eight waves! For some volunteers, this is a seven plus hour commitment each day!
So why do we — race organizers, volunteers, and runners — do this? Wouldn’t it be easier to do one of the many virtual runs? There are tons of them! The answer was obvious watching runners at the Island Vines 5 Miler, queuing up in the vineyard rows to be brought to the start line. They were skipping and jumping to the music as they moved down the row — eager to run their first race of the year. It was surreal watching the first finisher come in. Others were almost in tears as they crossed the finish line. It was a collective statement: “Yes, we can get through this — together.”
Hard to tell what happen in the ensuing months. There may well be some bumps in the road before things finally settle and we have a vaccine and COVID-19 moderates. But whatever the path, count on runners to be at the forefront. That’s our nature – to be out there, to push the limits, and enjoy doing that. Yes, we can get through this — together!