For most runners, the absence of in-person races during COVID has been difficult to stomach. The buzz of other runners getting together to share their passion and compete is something many miss. Virtual races are wonderful and all, but they’re just not the same as a live, in-person event. Now that cooler months are here, some race directors are promoting in-person races. But naturally many of us have concerns about these events and the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus. For this reason, it’s important to consider a few key points for running safely during COVID.
Unless you’ve decided to run a virtual race, any in-person race during COVID will have some risks. But running safely during COVID means taking the right precautions to make this risk as low as possible. Without question, most race directors are implementing a number of best practices in this regard. But it never hurts to double-check and to put your own safeguards in place. With this in mind, a few things before, during, and after the race are worth considering. In the process, you’ll more likely be able to enjoy the benefits that running offers.
Pre-Race Considerations During COVID
Like any pre-race preparations, preparing for races during COVID requires some forethought. If you’ve already decided to skip the virtual races, then researching a little about your race is key. Most race sites will provide details about the extra steps they’re taking to ensure everyone is running safely during COVID. These details should include policies regarding distancing, face masks, aid stations, and starting/finishing procedures. You will definitely want to be sure these issues are addressed and to your liking.
For most races during COVID, registration should be limited to online only to avoid unnecessary contact. This means most races won’t have same-day sign-ups. As for packet pickups, these are best done ahead of time when social distancing can be easily performed. If packets are available on the day of the race, getting there in plenty of time to avoid any congestion will be important. Lastly, you’ll need some extra gear you may not usually think about. Not only will you need a face mask or neck gaiter, but you’ll likely need your own hydration and fuel. Most races during COVID won’t be providing these supplies.
Race Day Considerations
As far as race day goes, there are additional measures to take. Running safely during COVID requires knowing the specific starting procedures. Most races during COVID will be using staggered starts to facilitate social distancing. Likewise, most will require the use of face masks before the race and even at the starting line. And many will be using temperature checks and self-reported symptom questionnaires. All of this will require extra time, and likewise, an extended race starting process. Thus, arriving in advance will be even more important for races during COVID than previously.
If you’re an experienced runner, you’re well aware of the pre-race jitters that can come. And of course, along with these jitters comes the need to use the restroom. If you’re focused on running safely during COVID, then you might want to avoid the portable bathrooms altogether. Therefore, using the restroom before you leave your home will be important on race day. But if nature calls on your arrival, make sure you mask up and have plenty of hand sanitizer available. Races during COVID should have these items on-hand, but it never hurts to be well prepared.
COVID Considerations During the Race
As mentioned, most races during COVID will be using a staggered start. That means a limited number of people will cross the start line at a time. If required to wear your face mask at the start, you’ll likely be permitted to remove it once running. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be approaching the race like any other. Pandemic etiquette is still required. Running safely during COVID requires special attention to some specific issues. When passing someone, it’s important to maintain social distancing and allow six feet in between you and someone else. Likewise, drafting off someone else isn’t a great idea. And if at all possible, refrain from spitting or blowing your nose.
As you’re likely aware, the coronavirus is spread through aerosolized droplets. When running, we naturally breathe heavier, which means droplets have the potential to spread even more. Therefore, maintaining a distance greater than six feet from other runners is recommended by some experts. Likewise, these same droplets can contaminate surfaces. This is why taking your own hydration and fuel is best. And if aid stations are made available, be sure volunteers are wearing face masks as well as gloves. These are good common-sense practices to consider for running safely during COVID.
Wrapping Up the Race
As you cross the finish line for races during COVID, don’t expect the same hoopla as normal. In fact, there may very well be none. Most races aren’t allowing spectators along the race route or at the finish. Likewise, there won’t be a beer tent or lines of tables with bananas, cookies, and power-bars. Instead, expect a goody bag with pre-packaged snacks and bottled water. And if you’re lucky, your bag might even have a commemorative mask or neck gaiter! Things are certainly different in 2020.
Despite these notable changes, running safely during COVID is still possible. You may not have the same experience during a race that you’ve had in the past. But regardless, you will still enjoy a social experience and a sense of community that makes races so much fun. In addition, races during COVID give you something clearly tangible for which you can train. And they give you that same sense of accomplishment when you’re done. These are the things that drive many runners to consider community races in the first place. It simply requires a few additional considerations for running safely during COVID than it did before.
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