Road races in the post Covid-19 era

We have reached the point of the Covid-19 crisis where popular races and sporting events can now be held, but not exactly as they were before.

The sporting events sector of the government has been completely forgotten and lacking in aid. At least in Spain, it has been entirely inactive from March 2020 to May/June 2021and suddenly we are faced with the task of starting up all the races that were cancelled or postponed with half the number of runners and five times the security measures, which for some organizers is not profitable.

This means double the effort for race organizers as they find the safest way for participants to run with half the capacity of runners as races before COVID-19.

In the case of Spain, the Royal Athletics Federation drafted and published the “Guide of action and recommendations for the organization of competitions” in which it only focuses on track athletic competitions, leaving aside any other off-track or popular sport. This document is not enlightening either, as it only recommends a reduced capacity, the use of masks, social distancing and a lot of hand hygiene or hydrogel.

How can we start organizing a popular race, achieve distance at the starting line, and at the finish line?

These are questions that organizers wanting to resume activity are asking themselves and for which no competent authority has had concrete answers and specific measures, only a series of limits and restrictions that guarantee the safety of the participants of the event.

So, in our eagerness to help this sector that we love so much, we have contacted two experts in sporting events to tell us what measures they have taken since they have been the first to resume their events after this long hiatus during this uncertain time.

Volunteers and an excelent communication

Alex Aparicio, race director of well-known races such as the Run Cancer Circuit, the 10K Valencia Ibercaja, Eikiden Valencia tells us how on May 23, 2021 he wanted to celebrate the return of popular sports competitions and organized the 5K Valencia first edition to give life again to companies in the sector that had been at a standstill for many months. In addition, this event would serve as a benchmark in terms of safety measures for future events of this type with high participation.

The runner’s response was massive, the 3,000 bibs were sold out in a few hours, but how can you carry out this event with all the security measures and so many runners? Volunteers are the key, you can have a lot of ideas in mind to ensure safety, social distancing, hygiene… but to be able to carry out these ideas it is essential to have people who follow the guidelines and enforce them.

The regulations in the Valencian Community regarding sporting events stipulated in May 2021 that the maximum number of simultaneous runners should be 1,000. The regulation also stated that no more than 1,000 runners should ever coincide during the start, course or finish line. Thus, in agreement with the Sports Council, three waves of 1,000 runners each were prepared.

Each wave corresponded to a range of expected times, with the fastest runners starting first and with 30-minute intervals in between each wave. The simultaneity of runners was successfully avoided: the 1,000 runners in the second wave had a hard time catching up with the 1,000 runners in the first wave.

Social media networks were used to ensure good communication with the participants and keep them constantly informed. The runners in each wave were called half an hour apart in the starting area, volunteers were at the entrances of the starting area taking the runners temperatures, controlling the use of masks and offering hydrogel. 

Image courtesy of Running CV

In addition, stickers were placed on the ground at the start line to mark a 1.5 m distance between them, so participants knew exactly where to place themselves when entering the starting area.

Image courtesy of Running CV

Finish line: volunteers handed out masks to those who arrived at the finish line and to avoid lines for the refreshments, tables were set up as self-service before leaving the post-finish area. Volunteers monitored to prevent groups from forming at the finish line to congratulate each other, hug, celebrate, etc… And the photo service and photocall after the race were dispensed for obvious reasons. 

Live App to communicate with the participants

We also talked to one of our most active timers in Spain, Gerardo Gómez from 321go events company, who works timing races all over Asturias. He told us that he relies mainly on the Live App. On October 21, 2021 the 10 Km Villa de Laredo will be celebrated and he is using Live to publish vital information in the profile of each registered participant: the assigned bib number, pick up time, corresponding start box, post-race refreshment area map… and more, to avoid confusion on the part of the runners and avoid crowds… In this way the participant has constant updates on information about the race and risks will be avoided.

When working in an entire autonomous community, the race must be coordinated with the corresponding organizer or race director, who in turn follows the guidelines of the city council.

Thus, the best thing to do at this time, if you are a race organizer o sports events organizer, is to contact the relevant local authority and health authority to inform about the race conditions, and beyond these conditions, get inventive to take additional measures such as those we have discussed. Therefore, your participants and the authorities will see that you have a proactive attitude to improve health and safety beyond the minimum requirements.

It’s more work than you did before the pandemic, of course, but with a good team of volunteers and good communication, you can make your race a reference for anti-Covid-19 measures.


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