On March 4, 2020, I shared the first notice to members about managing events with the emerging threat of a virus that was seemingly sweeping the globe (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19). Shortly thereafter, the RRCA was forced to cancel its 2020 convention followed rapidly by a global shut down of all live events due to the deadly pandemic. It is a tragic fact that the virus became the third leading cause of death in the United States1 in 2020 and has killed over 703,000 people in the US in a short period of time.
While the shutdown of the running community/industry, and the economic challenges that were inflicted, are a going challenge, in retrospect, the running community played an important role in limiting the spread of the virus by making sacrifices to protect society. In fact, protecting the whole, or the pack, as we call it in running, has long been a primary ethos of race directing and running community leadership.
Fast forward 18-months. While pandemic conditions remain a real and going threat to society, we have opportunities to be optimistic and pro-active that will allow the running community to continue to rebuild in the coming months.
To keep moving forward, it is important to note the fact that vaccines save lives2. Vaccines are the path back to normalcy. A good example is to look at data coming out of colleges where vaccinations have been required for in-person attendance. Once such school, Virginia Tech (VT), shared some promising news recently, outlining how their efforts have had a positive impact. VT President Tim Sands outlined in three concise points: mitigation measures work, vaccines are making a difference, and outdoor events have not been associated with an increase in COVID-19 incidence3. While this editorial is only one data point, it echoes what we are seeing and hearing with RRCA members around the US.
Reasonable mitigation measures include:
- Following local and state guidelines and mandates for live events including masking requirements and proof of vaccination for entry;
- Messaging to participants encouraging them to stay home if they are sick or have symptoms and offering a deferral option to encourage the sick to stay home;
- Showing proof of vaccination at packet pick-up (the live music industry has adopted this method pro-actively and successfully);
- Requiring masking at the start and finish line and in common spaces;
- Providing hand sanitizer at touch points (toilets, packet pick-up, etc.);
- And more.
For many months now, RRCA members have been able to host events around the country. Those that have enforced reasonable mitigation measures have reported no outbreak occurrences, which tracks with trends and reporting from other live event industries that have employed similar mitigation measures. While there has been an occasional one or two cases of COVID-19 reported to a race director post-event, so far running events have not been reported to be super spreader events, mainly due good mitigation measures and the good health status of participants.
As of September 30, 2021, the recovery rate for the number of events that have occurred compared to 2019 has exceeded 78%. However, we have a way to go to rebuild consumer confidence and participation, with participation in events as of the end of September at 48% compared to the numbers we tallied in 2019. As we near the half-way mark of recovery, we are optimistic that the running community is headed in the right direction as we look to 2022. The continued use of mitigation measures coupled with rebuilding consumer confidence in live event participation will be critical to ensuring a full recovery by this time next year.
About 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 and success of community-based running organizations that empower all people to participate in the sport of running in pursuit of enjoyment, health, well-being, and competition. Learn more at: www.RRCA.org