Whether it’s next week or six months from now, we’re eventually going to be returning to some semblance of “normal” once the threat of COVID-19 lessens. But while restaurants might reopen and business employees head back into the office, things will undoubtedly be different—and this holds especially true for races and events.
As cities start to explore re-opening and race directors plan for future events, it’s important that they plan ahead to take the necessary safety precautions. Here we provide tips for holding a safe event, including volunteers wearing masks, scheduling staggered times for racers to attend packet pickup, using virtual swag bags, a flexible illness policy and more.
These best practices are ever changing, so it’s best to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website (click here for their Gatherings and Community Events page) for updates.
Volunteers Should Wear Masks (and Gloves)
First and foremost, you need to go above and beyond to protect those volunteering and working at your event. This includes providing plenty of gloves and masks for each person, as well as setting up barriers between them and the high volume of athletes/attendees when appropriate. Educate your volunteers on best practices, and include clear social distancing signage to remind your athletes how to minimize their impact.
Staggered Packet Pickup
We all know the opening and closing “rush” all volunteers face when it comes to packet pickup, so to limit peak volume, create a schedule for a staggered packet pickup. This can be done alphabetically—for example, last names that start with A, B or C check in from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Naturally these assigned pickup windows won’t work for everyone, so be flexible on a per-case basis.
Virtual Swag Bags
Virtual swag bags have become all the rage at virtual events and races, so consider switching from an in-person expo to sending out a virtual swag bag (clearly communicate this change with your sponsors as early as possible). This cuts down on waste, delivers deals and promos directly to your athletes’ inboxes and includes trackable metrics. Anytime you can reduce the foot traffic and in-person interactions at your event, the better.
Flexible Illness Policy
The last thing a race organizer wants is to have an athlete show up to the expo or starting line sick, and spread the virus to other volunteers or athletes at the event. Make a clear policy that if an athlete feels sick, or he/she might have been exposed to someone who was sick, he/she should opt to either have their entry rollover to next year’s event without fee, or they can request a full refund. Make this as easy as possible for your athletes to take advantage of.
Hand Sanitizing Stations
This one is straightforward—place hand sanitizing stations anywhere your event has a high traffic volume. This includes at the expo (near registration, packet pickup, t-shirt pickup, etc.), as well as near the portable toilets, start corral, aid stations and vendors at the finish line. It’s best to be overly cautious here and provide more stations than needed rather than not have enough. Also, enlist the help of volunteers to routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched.
Host a “Local” Event
This one is a bit harder to enforce, but make it clear on your marketing materials and registration page that this year’s race or event is a “local” event, and you recommend athletes register only if they’re within a certain mile radius. This will help deter people flying in or driving from areas potentially more impacted by the virus than your own.
Practice Social Distancing in the Start Corral
According to the CDC, be mindful to reduce the density of attendees within a confined area. Based on what is currently known about the virus, spread from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contacts (within 6 feet). This is especially important to remember as athletes organize in the start corral—allow plenty of space (and use a rolling start) to protect your athletes.
Spectator-Free Event (Online Streaming)
Spectator support has always been one of the biggest draws for physical events, but in these early stages of reopening, consider a spectator-free event to protect the families and friends of your athletes. Of course your event won’t have the same feel, but remember it’s a temporary solution—you can always offer a live feed of the finish line and other key areas of the course so spectators can cheer from home.