So now it’s official: The coronavirus pandemic has made it a clean sweep of canceling Bucks County’s three major road races.
The Bucks County Roadrunners Club’s signature event, the Thanksgiving Day 5-Miler, has been shuttered until at least 2021.
Earlier this year, live versions of the Kiwanis-Herald Sesame Place Classic 5K and the July 4 Revolutionary Run 10K/5K were forced to call things off due to the global health crisis.
All three events hope to return next year, pending a better, safer environment.
One bit of bright news: BCRR plans to go ahead with its annual Winter Series, albeit with a reduced schedule and restricted fields.
The Thanksgiving holiday classic has drawn ever-growing fields in recent years and, along with the Revolutionary Run, has been around since well back into the 20th century.
BCRR official and Winter Series director John O’Brien said the club considered a scaled-down race to meet state and county safety standards but like with many large get-togethers, it just wasn’t going to work.
“The logistics with COVID-19, we just couldn’t work a way to put everything on,’’ O’Brien said in a phone conversation. “Without limiting it to make it something too small, we figured it was in the best interest of everybody to just cancel.’’
The club is in the process of reaching out to its sponsors to continue to raise money for its various charity causes. Past runners will be receiving an email asking for donations.
“The tough part (of canceling) was the tradition,’’ O’Brien said. “We’ve been doing this for over 30 years. We’re proud of the money we’ve raised. To cancel feels like we’re letting down the community but at some point, limiting the field would disappoint too many people.
“It was heartbreaking for the group but the plan is to come back next year.’’
The Winter Series, a schedule of 11 races in Tyler State Park which usually kicks off in early December, will now be limited to eight races and tentatively start on Jan. 3, 2021.
“We will be coming out with something pretty soon on how we’re going to open up the Winter Series,’’ O’Brien said. “The races are going to be scaled back.’’
That includes limiting the races to about 150 runners, way down from the usual crowds of 300-400. Also, post-race food/social gatherings will be limited due to health precautions.
As always during the pandemic, masks will be required pre- and post-race.
In addition, BCRR is going to a chip timing system in order to allow for wave starts to provide for proper social distancing.
“We’re working with the (Tyler) park, we put together a COVID-19 plan to reduce the number,’’ O’Brien said. “We’re starting later in the year to allow things to work through.’’
Chip timing means the days of the old “popsicle stick’’ timing method, etc. are over.
“The thing about the Winter Series, it’s more than just races, it’s a social event,’’ O’Brien said. “So putting on a social event in a time when you want to be socially distant just doesn’t work out very well. We’re doing the best we can to still have racing going on.’’
Also, the club is hoping to possibly raise that 150 number somewhere along the way, pending improved health conditions across Pennsylvania.
If the Winter Series had started late and kept its full slate of 11 races, things would have extended into March when the park begins to fill up with visitors and the club wants to avoid an overcrowding situation at a time like this.
“We’re still working on which actual races are going to happen,’’ O’Brien said. “We’re trying to eliminate races with significant ‘out and back’ to them (to prevent crossovers).’’
No firm decisions have been made yet but one pretty obvious candidate to go off the board is the Cham-Pain 5K on New Year’s Day. Another likely casualty is the Staggered Start, which usually takes place at the very end of the season.
As for the registration process, the plan is to allow runners to sign up for the entire series but then also sign up on a weekly basis to give everyone a fair shot to get in.
“That depends on what the actual registration numbers turn out to be,’’ O’Brien said. “I expect numbers will be down (due to pandemic).’’
O’Brien hopes to have final details for the Winter Series ready to post on the club’s website (bcrrclub.com) within a week or two.
“We expect to open (for registration) by Oct. 23,’’ O’Brien said.
The Winter Series has been around since 1978. How important is it to keep this signature event in place and the legacy alive?
“It’s important because our runners are anxious to run,’’ O’Brien said. “Everyone’s tired of virtual races. So we’re trying to get something where we can safely get people out to run in these conditions.’’
O’Brien is joined by veteran club officials Johnny King-Marino, Richard Kanak, Bill Schaffling and Phil Miele in putting all this together.
A tip of the hat for a great effort.
25th annual Crooked Billet 5K, Warminster. Contact www.craven-hall.org
David’s New Day 5K, 9 a.m., Warminster. Contact www.runsignup.com