Here’s something to warm up your dreary winter: The Bucks County Roadrunners Club’s Winter Series is alive and well.
While it started about a month later than normal (including an extra one-week delay at the start of this month), the Series returned with a flourish this past Sunday.
A near-capacity crowd of 158 showed up at Tyler State Park to participate in the Covered Bridge 5K, the first of eight races on an abbreviated schedule.
The field was capped at 175 runners. Usually there are about 300-400 runners at the starting line but compromises have to be made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other concessions include no traditional camp fire, no post-race food and no Series scoring for prizes at the end of the season.
Even with all the adjustments, Winter Series director John O’Brien was thrilled with the proceedings.
In his eyes, it was important to keep the tradition alive this year. BCRR has been putting on the Series since the club’s inception in 1978 and the locals weren’t about to let some global health crisis break the streak.
“We could not have asked for a better day to start the Winter Series,’’ O’Brien said. “It was a beautiful morning in Tyler.
“Sure things were different this year, no fire to draw everybody in and a new registration process to distribute the timing chips. Everyone seemed happy to see each other and excited to run an actual race.’’
Of ultimate importance was the following of safety/health protocols.
“Masks were worn around the boathouse which made it a little harder to recognize some people, but I think we are all getting used to that,’’ O’Brien said. “And rather than our normal announcements we asked runners to meet by their wave start area in much smaller groups.
“As the first group started, each wave started making its way to the starting line. In addition to this being a new process to start, this is our shortest race so we had to make sure the waves got off and running quickly. We had all the runners out before the leaders were coming in and we did it with time to spare.’’
Last year’s champions, Jamie Gray and Allyson Thompson, picked up where they left off from last February, finishing first in the male and female divisions respectively.’’
BCRR veteran official Joe Boyce liked what he saw.
“Planning to participate in the Winter Series, which I’ve run for 20 years, I felt conflicted,’’ Boyce said. “I hadn’t been around a race group, even outdoors wearing a mask, since the pandemic started.
“I didn’t feel physically or mentally ready. Then the race began, and all the joyful misery and the friendly competition returned in an instant. I strategized when to push, when to remain steady, trying to gauge my breathing, my leg strength, my growing fatigue.’’
Everyone seemed to feel it was a rewarding experience.
“Running with a mask was a challenge as was an off-road course change due to keeping runners distanced,’’ Boyce said. “It was all worth it. Socializing with other runners, seeing their smiling eyes, hearing their appreciative hellos — racing with the BCRR again was amazing.
“The first race was a rousing success, well planned and well executed. The Bucks County Roadrunners rocked it.’’
Bill Schaffling was encouraged by the energy and enthusiasm.
“The race was really well organized,’’ Schaffling said. “Waves that started 30 seconds apart were perfect in keeping people apart. Faster people went first. You wore a mask and also kept some distance in the waves before the start. Chip timing ensured accurate recording so people didn’t need to be crowded around at the start.’’
O’Brien hopes the Series can keep the momentum going.
“Overall it (Covered Bridge) was a success,’’ he said. “Yes, we missed the fire and the post-race food, but people got to get out and participate in a live race while still social distancing.’’
Bucks County Winter Series Jingle Bell 5.3-Miler, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com