a group of runners in race action

Staying cool in the racing heat

Regular runABC contributor & racing enthusiast Chris wants to know if runners can stay calm when the pace quickens and we aim for race glory.

Will it be possible for road races to be revived before the end of the year (asks Chris Broadbent)? Whilst the itchy-toed running community awaits the return of organised events, organisers are analysing guidance and pondering what to do.

A large number have simply parked their planning for 2020 and postponed to 2021. Others have switched to virtual versions of their events. But some – including London Marathon, the UK’s torchbearer for mass participation - are still considering their options for some sort of actual event on the ground.

Guidelines direct from the British Government and further bespoke advice from national governing bodies such as England Athletics, certainly presents some challenging scenarios for organisers. There are a whole raft of recommendations around venue, medical, workforce, spectator, communication and race procedures that extend the already lengthy task list of any event organiser.

That’s a job few would envy right now.

But perhaps the most challenging part of all is maintaining social distancing in a race scenario. Even with the introduction of staggered starts and 'running bubbles', can people really be relied upon to respect the two metre distance?

Asking people to do so in the much more sterile environment of a supermarket is challenging enough. Can it be done in the excitement of a 10k run? I ask this as someone with ample race experience and self-awareness.

If I find myself in a competitive environment, it’s quite likely I end up in occasional close proximity with my fellow runners. More times than I care to remember, I have ended races in an elbow to elbow sprint with a fellow runner or two with a similar determination to do their very best. Yes, I admit it, I am one of those men that women-only events were created to avoid!

It’s not deliberate. But the mindset changes. The natural chemicals of adrenaline overrules any rational thinking. And chemicals of a less natural sort in reopened pubs are similarly causing some challenges over maintaining social distance.

It’s a serious consideration for all race organisers. Is it really possible to socially-distance a half marathon in a pandemic? Can runners really suppress their natural urge to truly race?

Image courtesy: Sherise on Unsplash

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