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What's Ahead for the 2021 Road Race Season?

Submitted by teschek_bill on


As the snow melts and the weather warms everyone in the running industry is wondering what kind of a return to normalcy we can expect to see over the course of the coming year. Last Fall we did see a limited return to racing - in New Hampshire at least - and GSRS was involved in supporting and timing a dozen or so cross country meets and road races, culminating in three races on Thanksgiving Day. Winter is always a slow season and things usually pick up quickly in the Spring. But this year the pandemic situation is still a problem, and early year prospects for live events are no more optimistic than they were throughout most of 2020. Early Spring 2021 races have mostly either gone virtual or cancelled, while others - anticipating big improvements by Fall - are postponing their events until later in the year. Late Spring and early Summer races are a mix. Some are moving forward with live events, while others are postponing, going virtual or cancelling once again. As this is being written in early March the prognosis for a full return to normality is impossible to know for sure. The vaccine rollout is improving daily, but the virus variants are worrisome. It seems like it may be a race between the two. There is definitely reason for some optimism that racing will return to normal this summer if everyone who wants a vaccine has been able to get one by then, but there is no way to be certain just yet.

If you are thinking of a postponement this year, please chat with us as you make decisions about when to hold your event. If everything opens back up in the Fall, we will likely have a very busy schedule. We can help you choose a date that not only works for us but avoids competition with some of the regular fall events in your area.

If you do hope to go forward with a live race this year, that's great! It can definitely be done safely, and we can help you plan and pull off a successful race. Here are some suggestions to get you started. Not every state in New England is currently on board with a return to racing, however. New Hampshire is way ahead of the rest of the region, having been operating under State safety guidelines for many months now. Other states may be opening up to racing soon. USATF-New England has a good webpage full of up-to-date information and links where you can learn more about what's going on in other states, as well as good advice for holding a safe race. You will still need authorization from your local permitting authorities, however, so start the conversation with them early. If they have concerns, talk with us about them and we can give you advice on how to address them, and how to hold your event under the existing guidelines in a way that should mitigate their worries.

If you do make the decision to hold your event in person, consider making it a "hybrid" event with both in person and virtual options. Many runners may still feel uncomfortable about attending in person but would be happy to participate virtually. And of course runners who live far away or have other plans on your race date can now be included. Going forward, even in a post-Covid world, offering a virtual option to runners may become very common. Also consider that even if you do plan to hold a live event, conditions come race day might not permit it to take place. In such a case you will either need to offer refunds, deferrals, or you can switch everyone to your virtual event. On your registration site you can include a disclaimer that states that should your in-person event need to be cancelled due to the pandemic, all registrants will be moved to the virtual category. If you go this route you may want to charge the same price for both your virtual and your in-person event so that you don't have to process partial refunds should you need to cancel and move everyone to virtual.

With so much uncertainty this year as to when or if our races will be held, we haven't put out all of our 2021 timing contracts this winter as we normally do. We're waiting until races confirm their dates as much as confirmation is possible these days at least! We'll contact you when yours is ready, but if you want to see your 2021 timing contract earlier please let us know and we'll get it out to you. Your race's web page IS up on our site, however, so you can go in and edit those if you want. We added a new feature recently where you can add your own descriptive information about your event that will appear on the page. The field where you add this information has full HTML editing capabilities so you can make it look however you'd like. And we'll be happy to help you with it. See this page on the Mt. Washington Road Race for an example of what this could look like. The new Description field appears on the right side of the page.