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Three Big Regional Running Races Get Coronavirus Makeovers

Richmond Marathon
Over 18,000 runners normally see views like this one on River Road during the Richmond Marathon. But due to the ongoing global pandemic, the views will change to parts of the Capital Trail. (Photo: Jesse Peters/Sports Backers)

When the coronavirus pandemic took a foothold in the region, uncertainty around major sporting events left runners in limbo. Races organized by Richmond non-profit Sports Backers, like the Monument Avenue 10K, the Patrick Henry Half Marathon and the Richmond Marathon, were left with an uncertain future.

Many runners, like Samantha Miller, switched to virtual racing. However, that got old quick.

“I miss the crowds, the spectators, the people, that feeling of legit crossing a finish line,” Miller said.

As more information about the coronavirus was discovered, Sports Backers developed safety guidelines and protocols  that will allow runners to lace up their shoes and cross a finish line once again.

Miller, who’s been running races for almost a decade, will be one of 500 runners hitting the roads around Ashland later this month for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon.

But the race is going to look a lot different for her and anyone else who has run past the cornfields in Ashland before. 

Molly Johnson, Sports Backers event director,  said they’ve cut the number of racers in half. 

“Just from a sheer numbers perspective, it was one that seemed a little bit more feasible, in terms of social distancing and keeping that cap at a safe number,” Johnson said. 

Spectators won’t be permitted to line the start and finish areas, nor will there be volunteers handing out cups of water, or placing medals over the necks of finishers--instead, runners will be given a sealed packet with their medal and race swag.

Other coronavirus precautions for Patrick Henry include having the runners wear masks before and after the race, and each runner will be assigned a strict wave start time.

Sports Backers is using the Patrick Henry race as a test case to see if they can successfully hold an event in the age of coronavirus. 

Monument Avenue 10K and The Richmond Marathon

Two of the biggest running events in the city--the Monument Avenue 10K and the Richmond Marathon--are going to look a little different this season, too. But Pete Woody of Sports Backers, said the feeling of completion will still be there.

“So thinking about the 10K and the Marathon, it’s like how can we at least still recreate that within the spacing and distancing and safety guidelines. That’s what the main attempt is, to sort of give people still that finish line feeling,” Woody said.

Both races draw thousands of runners and spectators. But due to the global pandemic, organizers decided to spread out the race days and locations. 

No longer will runners run on the cobblestone streets of Monument Avenue. The Monument 10K, which got pushed back from March, will be held at four different locations around the region over the last weekend in September. 

Officials said moving the Monument Avenue location had nothing to do with the ongoing protests but was done to accommodate runners from all over the region during the pandemic.

The Richmond Marathon will also see a venue change. Runners will no longer switch their views between the James River and the large houses on River Road. Instead, the marathon will take place along parts of the Virginia Capital Trail on weekends from November 7 to November 22.  

Each race will have dedicated start and finish lines as well as sign postings indicating mileage. And, all three races will have swag, such as t-shirts and medals, even if volunteers won’t be placing them on your shoulders. 


Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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