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RRCA's Executive Director Shares FAQs as Members Plan for a Return to In-Person Operations


RRCA, in Partnership with CARA, issues
Operational Preparedness Plans for Group Runs

By Jean Knaack, RRCA Executive Director

As your community begins to open up, now is a critical time for your organization's leaders to work on plans for how you can safely return to group and event running in the coming weeks and months. 

As we've noted, be prepared for a slow phase-in of return-to-activities in your community. Keep in mind state officials may say one thing, while your county or city officials may say something else based on local conditions.  Your role as community leaders will be important as you help guide runners in the slow return to in-person, group activities.  Now is the time to have conversations with your local permitting agencies to determine timelines for when larger group activities may return.  Around the US, members are receiving a variety of different information from "no events until September 1" to allowing for smaller events of 100 or less to proceed in the coming weeks.

Clearly, the differing situations between every community makes it challenging for the RRCA to issue detailed guidelines for members, but working with members from around the country, we can offer recommendations and templates that members can utilize as resources for local planning and policy development purposes.

As communities begin to relax restrictions, the following are frequently asked questions I've received in the last week or so.  Your organization's leaders have probably thought of these questions as well. I hope my responses will help you in your planning discussions as you navigate the safe return to in-person operations.  The RRCA will continue to share out information and lessons learned as running club leaders and event directors move towards a return to in-person operations.

Q. What are RRCA's guidelines for return to group running?

A. As noted,  with varying conditions around the US, a one-size-fits-all set of guidelines most likely will not meet everyone's needs.  With that said, the RRCA has worked with the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) on a detailed outline of Operational Preparedness Plans for Group Runs.  You may use this information as the basis for creating your own local plans.  We simply ask that you reference CARA and RRCA if you issue your own plans utilizing this slide deck as a template, and especially if you copy and paste the language verbatim.

In addition, if you have utilized paper sign-ins for group runs for safety reasons, now is the time to move to digital options, such as Google forms for sign-ins.  Utilize a QR code that people can scan for easy access to an online form for checking in, signing a group run waiver, and sharing emergency contact information.

Q. What are the insurance risks for returning to group running or hosting events?

A. As always, having policies, plans, and procedures in place are a key element in managing the risks faced by your organization.  Utilizing the resource outlined above, we highly recommend you update any local guidelines you have for group runs, as your organization moves into the "re-opening" phase.  Having plans and procedures in place and communicating those plans and procedures regularly is an important part of minimizing a claim of negligence.   

The activities of RRCA members utilizing our general liability program are covered, and we strongly encourage you to operate within the regulations in place in your community.  For example, if you are allowed to have groups of 25-people, develop plans to ensure that you are meeting local guidelines.  Make all efforts to enforce any new policies and procedures you have put in place as a result of the pandemic. 

Events may proceed if you are issued a permit to conduct your event as a live event.  We recommend you adopt plans, policies, and procedures to address event operations with references to any local physical distancing requirements, sanitation efforts, etc.  Refer to the Looking Forward:  Guidelines for Races and adopt updated policies and procedures based on these recommendations coupled with any state or local requirements or recommendations that have been issued. 

Q. If we offer a virtual option and a live option, are both events covered? 

A. Yes, if you offer a virtual option for a live event, that element of your overall event will be included in general liability insurance coverage for the overall event.  We strongly recommend you have written guidelines in place outlining how a virtual event should be conducted, and that you have a virtual-event-specific-waiver that is separate from your live event waiver.

Q. Doe the RRCA's General Liability Insurance Program cover a member if someone claims they get Covid-19 at an event or club activity?

A.  The General Liability policy provided by the RRCA for its members will defend claims of negligence if someone sues an event saying they got Covid-19 at the event. The burden of proof that an illness was actually contracted at an event will be a challenge in a lawsuit. Managing risk to avoid a clam of negligence makes it imperative for race directors/organizers to put plans in place for sanitation, physical distancing guidelines, updated waivers, etc. that are in accordance with local and state health department recommendations.  Good plans along with waivers that specifically include Covid-19 risk acknowledgement are a first line of defense if an event were to be sued for a claim of negligence if someone test positive following participation in an event or group activity.

Q. Is Covid-19 covered under accidental medical insurance?

A. We are aware that USA Triathlon issued a statement on accidental medical and Covid-19 not being covered.  It is important to understand that communicable disease has never been included in the accidental medical insurance coverage.  So naturally, Covid-19 is not included, and this is not a policy change. The point of this insurance is to cover a participant in the event of a physical accident, such as: a fall with broken bones; being struck by a car or object on course (falling signs); or other accidents that result in physical harm.  Keep in mind, this coverage is not general health insurance for an uninsured participant.  The coverage is supplemental to a participant's own health insurance coverage and is designed to make a participant financially whole to prevent a lawsuit if an injury is incurred during an event. 

Q. Can we ask people during registration if they have had Covid-19 or if they have been exposed to it?

A. Race directors and club leaders should be concerned about the issue of gathering health information from individuals, which can create increased liabilities by doing so.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge, often referred to as Protected Health Information (PHI) by the legal community and regulatory bodies.  Beyond HIPAA, states have their own laws that protect health information.  While HIPAA is primarily focused on the patient/health care provider relationship, gathering sensitive health information could expose an organization if the information is not managed appropriately.  The fines for PHI being leaked or not protected can be significant (from $2000 to upwards of $100K).

Race directors and club leaders should consult an attorney that specializes in managing PHI to ensure they have systems in place to protect their entities from leaks or misuse of information if they elect to gather sensitive health information, especially Covid-19 infection history. 

About the RRCA: The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the oldest and largest national association of running organizations and runners dedicated to growing the sport since 1958. The RRCA champions the development of community-based running clubs and events that serve runners of all ages and abilities in pursuit of health and competition. The RRCA’s vision is to see an organized running club established in every community in the U.S. To learn more, visit:

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