With 2020 coming to a close, so traditionally would a highly successful race season with hundreds of participants celebrating their PB’s. However since March the race industry has been decimated and now all races have to look forward to is hopefully a return to normality at some point in 2021.
Race organizers all over the globe haven’t been complacent, however, and one such organization formed in Canada has been lobbying the government and building support among participants. On Wednesday, December 1, 2020 the Canadian Endurance Sport Alliance (CESA) decided to mark the end of what has been a terrible year with a campaign to rally support for a return to racing next year.
Races all over Canada erected their start lines to highlight the industry and with the hashtag #STARTLINEIMPACT are encouraging individuals to share stories on what races mean to them. The campaign will run until December 31.
Co-founder of CESA and Executive Director of the Calgary Marathon, Kirsten Fleming said: “Races, like live events, were the first to get shut down and will be the last to come back. The best minds in the business are collaborating on the safe return to racing but 2021 is still very uncertain.”
Races large and small in every province have been affected.
“Saskatchewan was born out of hard work, resilience and the ability to see opportunity where many could not. Those traits continue to serve Saskatchewan today and will into the future,” said Kim Ali, Race Director of the Saskatchewan Marathon. “Our competitors. volunteers, race partners, sponsors and community partners also exhibit these traits and we will continue to endure while waiting to come out on the other side of this. We look forward to those brighter days of running and in the meantime we run
distant – but remain united.”
Paul Regensburg from the Banff Marathon made the most of his race cancellation by successfully converting to virtual and attracting hundreds more participants, who would not otherwise have registered. But like everyone in the industry he wants to see races back as soon as possible. “The endurance industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. As a result of the crisis, the global race industry is collaborating like never before to create COVID-secure protocols for the safe return to racing. There are many promising signs for a 2021 season that includes in-person events. We need our participants to be a part of that comeback by encouraging them to share race stories over social media.”
Rachel Munday, Race Director of the Manitoba Marathon applauds the campaign. “2020 has been a year of exceptional challenges across the board, and the #STARTLINEIMPACT collaboration is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of the impact on the endurance event industry as a whole. We are asking our athletes, volunteers, and partners to share what the start line means to them. It is so much more than running a race. Events promote healthy active lifestyles, positive mental health, and raise significant funds for our communities. We are calling on our communities to support us now, so that we can be together again in person.”
“This year has been such a bizarre and challenging time on so many levels for all of us in the endurance industry,” says Cory Freedman of the Toronto Women’s Run. “Not being able to ‘go to work’, and plan for our race season has been a very weird and unsettling feeling. For us at the Toronto Women’s Run series, we miss experiencing the camaraderie and the morning excitement of race day. We miss the excitement around the water station and seeing the race marshals work their magic. Above all, we miss seeing this community come together at the start and finish lines.”
But she says there have been benefits from going virtual. “The virtual races as well as our 416 Run Challenges have been a creative and inclusive way for us to engage with our runners, volunteers and supporters during a time when we are apart and yet together in so many ways. I can’t wait until I have the chance to once again host an event, set up a start line arch and enable everyone to be together and set their pace once again, “she adds.
For the TransRockies Race Series 2020 was the first time they hadn’t hosted an in-person event since 2002. “I think everyone found a way to stay connected to sport during this year of no races, but the important role that these events play in our lives came into sharper focus. Along with our peers in the endurance sports industry we’re working hard to prepare for the time that we can safely return to in-person events, even if things look a little different,” commented race director Aaron McConnell.
Race cancellations has far reaching consequences not only for participants but its many supporters and stakeholders. “The impact of the pandemic has also affected the volunteers, charities, local businesses and sponsors,” says Cathy Noel, Race Director & General Manager of the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. “Our event affects the physical, mental and economic health of so many and the community as a whole. Healthy individuals help build healthy families, workplaces and communities. We are hoping that participants are creating their own start and finish lines during this time and reaching out to support each other and their local businesses as we are through the Victoria Marathon Society.”
Brian Gallant, owner of Sinister Sports is also a co-founder of CESA and knows that race directors want to do the right thing by working on safety plans and adhering to all COVID-related guidelines. “It’s important for everyone to understand that professionals in our industry are researching the statistics and best practices, and what we are seeing is that there are very, very low rates of COVID-19 transmission in low-contact outdoor sports. You can hardly find any data on the rates because the occurrences are so low. People in our industry are not saying that we want to reopen and just throw caution to the wind. We want to reopen with sensible measures in place, and everyone is prepared to do that.”
He is aware that the endurance industry will not survive unless they can come back in some capacity by the spring. “Small and medium businesses account for 80 per cent of employment in Canada, yet everywhere they are disproportionately affected by the measures we are experiencing. We need to let our governments know that endurance sports matter. It matters to our physical and mental health. It matters to non-profit organizations that have lost hundreds of millions of dollars this year. It matters to our economy.”
So let’s all lend our support and go for a run, take selfies and hash tag #STARTLINEIMPACT.