In-Depth: Running events return to San Diego

Organizers put emphasis on runner safety
Posted at 6:06 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 15:07:30-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - When runners line up for the Crown City Classic on July 3, it will be the first large, in-person road race in San Diego County since the pandemic shut down the industry last year.

"We're really excited," says race director Jamie Monroe. "It's a military community, 4th of July is important, and we want to see things back to normal."

But "normal" comes with a caveat. Races this summer will have new guidelines to keep runners safe.

On May 1, the California Department of Public Health put out new guidance for "Community Sporting Events" that include rules on mask-wearing, social distancing, event capacity, and more.

Even after those rules expire, when the tier system goes away on June 15, race organizers say they will keep many safety procedures in place.

"There will be common-sense recommendations," says Mike Bone, the California Coalition of Endurance Sports co-founder.

His group worked for months with state and local lawmakers to develop long-term guidelines to make sure that runners know what to expect no matter which race they run.

"Once they start coming out and participating in the events again, and they start seeing the same safety precautions and the same standards at each of the events, they're going to get more comfortable," Bone says.

Among the most noticeable changes coming to races this summer will be more staggered starting times to allow for social distancing at the start and finish lines.

Susan Briggs, the Executive Director of the SD Half Marathon, compares it to boarding a plane.

"It will be in waves," she says. "It's going to work similar to what you'd find at the airport or on a 757, only it's even safer, and it's outside."

Briggs' race is scheduled for July 18 on Harbor Drive in front of the Convention Center. She says she plans to use the entire mile of road to keep people from crowding the starting area.

Meanwhile, post-race beer gardens and parties will be smaller, if not eliminated.

"As people finish, we'll have fewer areas our participants might congregate tightly. We'll make sure that feels more spread out," says Eric Marenburg with the San Diego Running Company. Their first race, the Craft Classic Half Marathon & 5K, is scheduled for July 25.

Runners will also have touchless options for picking up their t-shirts before races and their medals afterward.

When it comes to social distancing, event organizers say they don't expect any problems.

"Running by nature is social distancing," says Marenburg. "If you're less than 3 or 4 feet within someone, you may start stepping on their shoes."

The return of the running industry is also a significant boost to the economy. According to the CA Coalition of Endurance Sports, road races contribute $1 billion each year to the state's economy, as well as $70 million in charitable donations.

"You want to fill up hotel rooms, and you want to fill up restaurants, let the endurance market start working again," Bone says.

Many of the first races scheduled for this summer will have 2,000 to 5,000 runners registered. Organizers say the success of those could pave the way for larger events in the fall, like the Rock & Roll Marathon on October 23.

In the meantime, they're thrilled to put on races again.

"We just can't wait to get 3 a.m. alarm to get us to the start line to set up and have all these runners come back to our events," says Marenburg.

"We love you. We miss you. We can't wait to see you again," adds Briggs.