Jim Graham: Runner's High: Reality or delusion?

Although there are few live races due to COVID 19, there are still some limited opportunities. Here are some things to consider before you enter a race and what to do when you arrive. It is complicated as there is no “one size fits all” guideline.

If you are in a high-risk group, live with or plan on visiting someone within 14 days of the event that is at risk for a severe illness, stay home. The same applies if you believe that participating will cause undue psychological stress.

A lot also depends on where the race occurs, the event’s size, and race management. Before you go, check the positive infection rate in the area where the race is taking place. Three to five percent is a much more acceptable risk level, than when the numbers are hitting 10 percent or higher. Keep in mind that a race attracting runners from outside the area makes this calculation more problematic.

Not every event director understands how to conduct a race properly. You need to access information on your own if the race director does not provide it. How big is the race? Anything over 250 can present additional challenges and may make the race too much of a risk. It is also important to understand whatever local restrictions are in place. CDC guidelines are essential, but local races are under orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Michigan divides into eight regions with different levels of restrictions.

Try to pick up race numbers before the race. If that is not possible, observe whether volunteers are masked and separate. Before you arrive, make sure you have extra masks. Wear a mask at all times when you are not running. Mask usage applies when you line up but also when you finish. Bring a different face covering in case you drop yours during the race. Do include sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, fluids, and a drinking receptacle.

Try not to enter indoor facilities before or after the race. Use outside latrines rather than indoor. Any spectators that might accompany you should view the race from an area away from the starting line. When you finish, leave the event area ASAP. Skip any post-race festivals. Most races will send awards via mail.

Many races of any size will need to stagger the start to keep runners apart. Chip timing is the only option. There need to be six feet of distance with a minimum density of no more than 30 runners per 1000 square feet. If you don’t see this, you may want to wait in an area away from the crowd. When you finish, avoid hugs and handshakes.

All of the above appear cumbersome, but you have few other options to decrease your risks. Your other options are to participate as a virtual runner or forego the event until we can get back to some degree of normalcy.

Jim Graham is President of the Board of Directors of the 876-member Traverse City Track Club. Contact him at info@tctrack.com

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