It’s safe to say the racing community (and everyone else) did not see 2020 coming. The day everything really shut down the Pacific Multisports crew was still hustling to get things ready for packet pickup for the Runnin 0′ the Green the next day. Even after that we had hopes that in-person events would be back up and running later in the summer…and then in the fall…and then finally we all realized that it was simply not going to happen in 2020.
So. Many. Races. Cancelled.
But amidst all the cancellations we also saw some incredible creativity emerge. We had the chance to work with a few race directors who were able to pivot and figure out a way to not just take their races virtual but to also make them fun and successful (we’re looking at you Gretchen Walla of Walla Trails and Community). In a time when we were all reeling it was inspiring to see that kind of ingenuity.
Now moving into 2021 event organizers have all had enough time to come to terms with the fact that racing – at least through early 2021, will look different than it traditionally has. No race director wants to cancel their event but sometimes it has to be done. No race director wants to have to cancel their event two years running – and so it’s time to get creative.
Here is what, in our humble opinion, we think you can expect to see for race events in early 2021:
All events will offer a virtual option. Maybe you haven’t jumped on the virtual race bandwagon yet, but if you haven’t it’s time to give it a try. We predict all races that don’t cancel again at least through the first quarter of 2021 will be offering a virtual option. Look for ones in your sport that focus on building community. Make it more fun for yourself and everyone else by being an active participant. Many of these challenges have photo competitions, leader boards, Facebook groups. Find a race that encourages you not just to get out for the event itself, but also builds community around the training leading up to the event. That way you’ll get more motivation and bang for your buck.
In-person events (if offered) will look very different. Across the state, we have seen a few examples of small in-person events being held safely and successfully. Permits for race events in Bellingham are not being issued yet, but it gives us hope and also some examples of what we might expect to see. Some of the things you might see are small-group wave starts, limits as to how many people can be at aid stations at one time, masks before and after the events and a 6-foot distance required between athletes unless passing, a required pre-event health screening. Spectators will likely not be allowed. But in this scenario you would still have the energy of other athletes around you, and you would receive timed results.
Be flexible in your expectations. Hybrids will be the norm. You should know that all of the race directors we’ve worked with would love, and are hoping to offer you an in-person event. But that being said it is not always up to them. So they will most likely be planning both a virtual and an in-person event while hoping that permits will be available for an in-person race. Please take a moment to recognize that it already takes an incredible amount of work to organize one race event, and now event organizers are essentially planning two without knowing for sure if one will happen. We encourage you to support them and embrace the virtual aspects of the race so you are getting value either way and so that our local events can weather the storm and are around after the pandemic is over. Pick one this Spring and commit to being an active participant!
Going into 2021 will require extra understanding and flexibility on the part of the athlete and the event organizers. We all can’t wait to be back out there competing together again. But until then, keep moving, and keep training so you’ll be ready to race the second things open back up!