Endurance running, just like everything else, is going to change. COVID-19 will cause races to look different, and some may not survive.
According to an article from the New York Times, the coronavirus pandemic has caused about 5,000 road races, 775 cycling events, and over 250 multisport events to be canceled. However, plans are already in the works to bring many of the popular marathons, cycling races, and triathlons back.
What’s at Stake for Endurance Running?
Unless you’re a part of the endurance running and event industry, you may not realize what’s at stake. The industry is made up of about 40 million runners in the United States and about 35,000 races are held throughout the country, according to CNBC.com. Thousands of jobs are on the line due to COVID-19, and billions of dollars in revenue.
While the face of many endurance races remains unknown, those planning to come back will likely look very different. A typical race includes thousands of runners in a massive group, shoulder-to-shoulder, shared beverage stations, and a racecourse with people running very close to each other.
Preparing for a Different Type of Endurance Race
Endurance running doesn’t really fit the typical social distancing model. With runners breathing heavier and faster than normal, any virus-transmitting droplets will surely travel more than just six feet.
This poses a unique situation for race organizers making it even more difficult to get races back anytime soon. Some of the potential changes to endurance races in the future include:
- A lower amount of race participants
- Keeping touchpoints to a minimum throughout the race
- Training and education seminars for runners to ensure everybody understands the best practices
- More self-reliance with athletes carrying their own nutrition
- Increased pre-race screening
Along with these changes, its possible events with swimming may cancel the swimming portion, at least for this year. Fewer pools have stayed open for athletes to train throughout COVID-19.
It’s also possible that start times could be staggered to mitigate the crowd. Instead of every runner starting at one time, race organizers may allow runners to start within an hour window. A virtual race could become a part of many running events moving forward, too.
What about Non-Race Endurance Running?
COVID-19 hasn’t completely taken away endurance running outside of races. Many runners have been able to continue training, but adjustments are needed.
With fewer trails and parks open, along with some cities/counties providing stricter regulations, it has become harder to train. However, it’s not impossible and for most runners, getting out for a long-distance run isn’t difficult.
More endurance runners will need to train by themselves or ensure proper measures are taken before training with others. Regular temperature screenings and more distance between runners is a good start.
Runners working with a marathon coach may notice a few changes, too. Group sessions will likely not be available temporarily, but one-on-one runner coaching shouldn’t change much. A few extra precautions are probably necessary, just to be safe, and new running locations might be used.
Endurance running will evolve due to COVID-19. Races will likely have a new format and more virtual racing and training are likely. It’s hard to say exactly what endurance running will look like a few months from now, but for now, keep training and keep running!