Racing for 2021 won’t be full speed until health conditions improve

Don't expect full fields of runners like this one until later in 2021 at the earliest. (Photo by Cory Steiner)
      As 2020 draws to a close, and almost everyone is anxiously waiting for that to happen, it should be noted just the flip of a calendar page won’t change the state of road racing.
      Competition has been drastically reduced or altered since mid-March and that’s unlikely to improve until the vaccination program takes hold and/or social distancing guidelines are better followed.
      We’ve already seen the postponement of the Boston Marathon, which was scheduled for mid-April. Unless the numbers including positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths from the pandemic begin to fall, not much is going to change.
      The New York Roadrunners Club, which saw its crown jewel race, the New York City Marathon, reduced to a “virtual event’’ has taken steps to keep some of the races on its calendar going.
      The club launched a pilot program in the fall, limiting participation to a couple hundred runners and making sure that all health protocols were met.
      Race director Jim Heim sounds encouraged by the results.
      “In marathon running, we just congregate and run together, but how people are organized is changing,’’ Heim said in an interview on the club’s website.
      “Three to four runners per batch, allowing time for runners to get a head start before letting the next batch of runners get to the finish line — it’s very different from what we’ve done historically, but if that’s what we need to do to make a race happen, then that’s what we will do. Starting small and learning and growing is where we are as a running community.”
      Here in Bucks County, two race series currently are going ahead with obvious certain provisions.
      The Bucks County Roadrunners Club has lowered its Winter Series schedule from 11 races down to eight. The Winter Series usually starts around the first week of December. This season it won’t get underway until Jan. 10, 2021 with the Covered Bridge Run 5K.
      There are usually between 300 and 400 runners taking part in individual events. This season fewer than 200 will be on the starting line.
      Likewise, the Bucks 5K Series is taking extra precautions, encouraging its runners to follow common sense safety measures.
      It should be noted some large races have not yet announced any modifications.
      For instance, the Philadelphia Love Run Half-Marathon, slated for March 28, continues to have open registration for a live event.
      But one look at the upcoming calendar shows the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
      On New Year’s Day alone, two area races have cancelled “open’’ racing and are offering a virtual option instead: The Resolution Run 5K in Hillsborough, N.J. and Stanley’s Dream 5K in West Chester.
      On Jan. 2, the 2020 is Hindsight (clever name) 5K at Peace Valley Park, Doylestown has been postponed but promises a quick reschedule date when conditions improve.
      Unlike 2020, when there appeared to be no end in sight to the pandemic, at least 2021 offers a ray of hope.
      Runners have remained patient. Some races were held this year but the fields were really downsized. A duathlon I regularly compete in at central Long Island in the fall usually has about 125 participants. This year? 21.
      Aside from competition, the things runners probably miss the most are the social interaction and the “buzz,’’ the atmosphere. . .especially around the post-race scene. No medals, no food, not much fun.
      We’re all looking for that to return and it will – perhaps as soon as late summer or early fall if everything goes well.
      In the meantime, keep up the good training and be ready when things get back to normal.
      >Off next week
      This is our usual 50th and final running column of the year. Please have a happy, healthy holiday and we’ll see you in ’21!
      Race calendar
      Sunday, Jan. 10
      Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series Covered Bridge 5K, 9 a.m. Tyler State Park, Newtown/Richboro. Contact bcrrclub.com
About Wayne Fish 1460 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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