So what will things look like on the racing front later this summer, fall, and even next year? It’s anybody’s guess and there is indeed a lot of guessing going on. Right now, the Boston Marathon is scheduled for September 14. That seemed safe when it was re-scheduled in March, but now it’s not so certain. Locally, the Vermont City Marathon is moved from Memorial Day weekend to October 25th. Again, that seems safe, but who knows. Vermont is in good shape Covid-19 wise and Governor Scott is slowly allowing a reopening. But he cautions we are a short drive away from metro areas that have more of a problem and less control over the spread of the virus. If events are held that attract out-of-staters, just how will that be handled?
Our local club, Green Mountain Athletic Association, has canceled its first two races, with a third to be virtual. Coming up are our two July races that attract over 200 runners each. On our Board call earlier this week, we agreed to see what guidelines the Vermont Department of Health issues on gatherings in the coming weeks. This is quite pertinent to all of Vermont; summertime is when many visit our state. We are fortunate to have leaders who are smart, listen to the data, are communicative and transparent with the public, and are putting health and safety first while still looking for ways to “open the spigot” thoughtfully. Hard to ask for more.
It seems clear things on the running front won’t be the same for quite a while. Virtual racing is filling part of the void for now, but there is pent-up eagerness (I’m certainly feeling it!) for live competition. So, thinking about options for that, imagine a race with everyone wearing a mask. This is not far-fetched, if not likely for pre-race and post-race activities. For sure, athletic brands are, as I write, developing masks that are more comfortable and runner-friendly. Also, with starting mats the norm, the start of races of all sizes could be staggered, much like the large races already do, to minimize crowding. This technology exists now and is there to use, though it might add costs for races not now using dual mats. Another option is having separate men’s and women’s starts as regular protocol. The options are many. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
The options will become more apparent as guidelines are issued. But we may as well accept that changes are coming. At bottom, it is a creative opportunity to recast how we do things. The truth is many traditional races have become set in their ways. Same old, same old. Covid-19 certainly shakes things up, requiring a new look. But even after a vaccine is developed and some “normal” order returns, it would be a lost opportunity to simply revert back to pre-Covid-19 practices.
As has been said ad nauseum, we’re all in this together. Nevertheless, we are relying on each other to take care, learn about and employ best-practices, and put our creative hats on to figure out constructive ways to move forward. This we can do!