Suddenly, it’s almost 2019 all over again. Need proof? Just look at the registration numbers for the Bucks County Roadrunners Winter Series and the annual Thanksgiving Day 5-Miler.
The numbers are virtually back to pre-pandemic levels and John O’Brien, who oversees the popular Winter Series and co-directs (with Rich Kanak) the Thanksgiving Day race, couldn’t be happier.
There’s a feeling of excitement in the air. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the turkey holiday event: There were over 1,000 participants in 2019-20, none last year because the race was canceled and now it sounds like the field could be back to four-digits again if early registration is any indication of the final count.
As for the Winter Series, there’s similar optimism. The races in 2019 averaged close to 400 each Sunday, dropped to 150 last winter due to COVID-19 health protocols and now figure to be back to close to full house again this time around at Tyler State Park in Newtown-Richboro.
“I think everyone is kind of psyched to get back to the ordinary,’’ O’Brien said in a telephone conversation. “Last year, people were just happy to be outside running again. This year will be more like doing things the way we used to. As much as it is a physical activity, it’s also a social event. You see people you haven’t seen for a long time. People are excited to go out and do stuff, like congregate. Last year, it was get out of your car, run, get back in your car and go.’’
O’Brien said he’s just looking forward to getting out there and not worrying too much.
“Our goal is to be back to normal this year,’’ O’Brien said. “As the numbers climbed in the summer, we look to be back to the way things were. Last year we were very limited because of the cap.’’
One of the big attactions of the Winter Series is the post-race food spread, which was basically scratched last winter. Everyone looks forward to BCRR president Johnny King-Marino’s famous oatmeal dish along with other healthy staples.
“We’ll have food, hot chocolate, coffee, oatmeal,’’ O’Brien said.
For more information on the Winter Series, go to www.bcrrclub.com.
O’Brien said the club is urging everyone who has not been vaccinated to wear a mask, especially in the common areas.
One other change is the decision to end “wave’’ starts which helped with social distancing last winter. Because everything is held outside, the health risk is much less for races like these.
With computer chip timing, it really doesn’t matter exactly when a runner leaves the starting line. The chip ensures an accurate clock for the each individual runner.
A couple races were scratched due to poor weather conditions last year, which hurt preparation for the longer (15K, half-marathon) races at the end of the season. This year, with so many runners returning, that sort of scenario probably won’t matter.
The Thanksgiving race will be returning off a year off. This will be the 31st running of the popular event, which starts at Summit Square Shopping Center in Langhorne and traverses a significant section of Core Creek Park.
“This race is doing huge numbers,’’ O’Brien said. “We’re on pace with where we were in 2019, which was our biggest ever. We get a lot of people who aren’t club members that come out and want to meet the club. It’s kind of a nice way to introduce them to the club.’’
The 2021-22 Winter Series schedule:
Dec. 19: Covered Bridge 5K.
Jan. 1: Jingle Bell 5.3-Miler.
Jan. 9: Cham-Pain 5K.
Jan. 16: Tyler Challenge 10K.
Jan. 23: Wild Card (TBD).
Jan. 30: Polar Bear 8-Miler.
Feb. 6: Honest Abe 4.6-Miler.
Feb. 13: Terrible Tyler 15K.
Feb. 20: Pick Your Way 5.3-Miler.
Feb. 27: Half-Marathon.
March 6: Staggered Start 4.6-Miler.
The Winter Series is looking for a new title sponsor for 2022. Contact the club on the website if you have any candidates for this important role.
Delaware Canal Half-Marathon, Washington Crossing. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
Girls on the Run 5K, New Hope. Contact www.gotrhunterdon.org
Bucks County Marathon, Washington Crossing. Contact www.runningintheusa.com