As the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread throughout the world and within the United States, we wanted to give our runners an update on the status of our 2020 races. The welfare of our runners is our first priority when it comes to race planning and management, and we've been monitoring the situation closely. We’ve taken our time and have been looking at best practices for events like ours and want to provide you an update.
As this is presently a dynamic situation with the outlook changing daily, any options we present should be considered tentative. Our first race, Last Runner Standing, doesn’t take place until June 6. As of now, we are continuing to plan and prepare for all of this year’s races. Currently, Last Runner Standing is the race we are most concerned about. We’re in the process of developing options for our runners should Last Runner Standing be affected by forced cancellation by governing agencies, CDC guidelines that make the event untenable or quarantines. We are hoping that our events later in the season, VoyageurQuest in August and the Wild Duluth Races (including Harder ‘n Heck Half and Terribly Tough 10K) in October will be able to move ahead as planned and health conditions in our country dramatically improved.
We’d like to address our plans moving forward should Last Runner Standing be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Of course, we’d like to move ahead with the race as planned, but that may be out of our control and we will adhere to any CDC, local, State or Federal orders with regard to group sizes and our desire to ensure that we are fully considering the welfare of our runners and our community. Should our other races later in the season also be affected, we will likely follow a similar course of action for those races.
With respect to current CDC and State guidelines, these are the options for Last Runner Standing that we are presently considering. The situation changes daily, and as we get closer to our event and continue to monitor the situation closely, we will make a decision on how we will move forward. We will try to make a decision on the status of our event at least 30 days in advance if possible. Here are the options we are considering for Last Runner Standing:
1. Move ahead with the race as planned with safety precautions in place based on best practices and CDC and State guidelines. Current CDC and State guidelines recommend canceling or postponing events over 50 people. See full State/CDC event guidelines below*. The CDC still has guidelines requiring cancellation of large events over 250 people. Last Runner Standing will be fewer than 250 runners but we will continue to follow changes to these guidelines. If we move forward with the event, the following safety precautions will be in place:
a. If you or anyone around you is feeling ill or “off” at all, stay home.
b. If you are in a high risk category (older or immunosuppressed), stay home.
c. If you are AROUND older or immunosuppressed persons, stay home.
d. Bring your own aid/nutrition and carry it with you. Put together a drop bag and use your own drop bag after each race/lap or at each aid station. At Last Runner Standing you will have access to the aid station and your vehicle after each race/lap. We will likely not be serving traditional aid station items to reduce the potential spread of the virus.
e. Use hand sanitizerbefore coming into each aid station or after each race/lap. We will increase the number of hand sanitizing stations or tables at our event.
f. Aid station personnel will still be helping with water and energy drink refills. All aid station personnel will be wearing personal protective equipment like gloves and changing them regularly.
g. Remove the lid of your water bottle and hold the bottle for volunteers to fill at aid stations with pitchers.
h. Aid station volunteers will be excessively wiping and cleaning the tables, water jugs and other aid station supplies.
i. Leave your cheering section at home. Please, no more than 2 crew members if any at all.
j. Unfortunately, no handshakes or high fives and sadly, no hugs at the finish line…
k. We will try to start the race with runners spaced out as far as possible. Spread out on the trail.
l. Reduce the amount of gathering at the finish line if possible. Stand 6 feet from your running friends when talking.
m. Refrain from spitting while running on the trail. If you need to spit, step more than 6 feet off the trail and spit into the woods with your face close to the ground…seriously!
2. Postpone the race to a later date. This is a challenge with permitting and other factors involved. In addition, there are so many races on the calendar nowadays, finding a free date on the running calendar is nearly impossible. If we determine that postponing Last Runner Standing is the best option, it’s likely the date would be November 14, 2020, the weekend after Icebox 480. Obviously, this presents a significant risk that weather could impact the event. However, this may simply add to the devious challenge of Last Runner Standing.
3. Implement a Virtual Race for all runners. Details would need to be fully worked out, but we would likely utilize Strava and create a virtual race for our runners on the date of the planned event, in this case Last Runner Standing. We have been working with the Backyard Ultra Race Directors group and have a developed and functional Google Doc that has been used previously for a virtual Backyard Ultra/Last Runner Standing event. Runners would find their own 4.17 mile loop (to make it easier, just find an out and back route) and complete the race on their own or in a small group of friends. We will continue to run the Facebook page throughout the event date and update with runners photos, comments and video. We’ll create a Strava event or group challenge where registered runners will record their times and distances covered. This will be our “official” record of runners completion. However, the results would technically be “unofficial” and the event more of a fun run and way to maintain some sort of community on race day. Obviously this option requires a good amount of trust and we truly believe in our runners. Strava is easy to use and if you have a smart phone or GPS watch, you can utilize this option. We will provide many more details if we decide on the Virtual Race route.
4. Implement a Virtual Race PLUS Invited runners. In this option, we would invite the top 10 men and top 10 women from last year’s event to compete at Last Runner Standing on race day. The remaining registered runners would compete in the “virtual race.” This would accomplish the goal of keeping our gathering within expected guidelines, maintain social distancing and still provide an exciting “live” event. We would provide updates and coverage on our Facebook page of the actual event unfolding while the remainder of our field could provide their own updates on Facebook of their “virtual races.” If not all of the top 10 runners from last year decide to compete, we will fill the remaining slots up to 10 with the top registered runners based on past performance in other events, at our discretion.
5. Cancellation. This is the least desirable option, and we will try to avoid cancellation if possible. However, much of what is happening with the virus and what may happen in the future is and will be out of our hands. In the event we do have to cancel a race, we will provide the following options:
a. Allow runners to defer their race entry to another race that we direct later in the year (Wild Duluth Races or VoyageurQuest). Runners would have to cover the difference in race fee for events such as VoyageurQuest.
b. Allow runners to defer their race entry to next year’s race (2021).
c. Runners may donate their entry if they choose.
In general, our races have a no refund policy, as is common with most races in the country. Unfortunately, many of the expenses races have, including permits, venue rental and supplies are committed far in advance of the race and we rely on race entries to cover these costs. Deferring entries to other races and the following year will certainly have an impact on our bottom line but it will not be as severe as full race refunds would be. We hope you understand this policy and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us any time.
At present, we see the above options as viable prospects. Everything here is tentative for the time being and things could change tomorrow. We may come up with other options and some of the above may be taken off the plate. If you have any comments or concerns or have other ideas that could be viable, contact us and let us know.
With all of this in mind, we truly hope things improve dramatically and we're cautiously optimistic that they will in a few months. We certainly would love to see your smiling faces at one of our starting lines, but more importantly, we want you to be safe and we want to be sure we're also doing our part to protect our more vulnerable fellow citizens. Hope to see you on the trails soon!
Andy and Kim
*Events where 50 people or more would gather, including but not limited to:
Professional, college, and school performances or sporting events.
Other types of assemblies.
Smaller events (fewer than 50 people) that are held in crowded auditoriums, rooms, or other venues that do not allow social distancing of 6 feet per person.
Events with more than 10 people where the majority of participants are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including gatherings such as those at:
Assisted living facilities.
Support groups for people with health conditions.
Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
More information is available at CDC: Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready.