RunBritain has released guidance on a return to road racing which could facilitate licensed road races in the near future

Road and multi-terrain racing in the UK has been suspended during lockdown with RunBritain, who are one of the main race licensing bodies in the UK, not issuing new licenses for races taking place before the end of July.

On Tuesday RunBritain released a guidance document which will allow for road racing to recommence provided races are able to meet the requirements of the guidance.

The RunBritain document has been developed in partnership with medical experts, insurance companies, road race organisers and England Athletics and covers races taking place in England. Welsh Athletics have separately also released guidance this week, and Scottish Athletics also have their own guidance on off track racing.

We have already seen races taking place successfully in Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as on the Isle of Man and Guernsey.

Key points

Amongst a range of other requirements races must;

  • Appoint a ‘Covid-19 Officer’ and develop a Covid-19 Risk Assessment demonstrating how they intend to manage and mitigate risk
  • Ensure they have additional medical cover with specific additional requirements around personal protective equipment, water supply and an isolation area for anyone demonstrating symptoms
  • Provide additional facilities for hand washing and sanitisation
  • Provide plans on how they will ensure social distancing at start and finish areas and during the race
  • Minimise ‘contact points’ which will likely see no on the day entries, medals or give aways and runners encouraged to carry their own water (though water will still be provided bit not handed to runners).
  • Deter spectators from attending and provide clear information to participants on expected behaviour to keep the race safe for themselves and others
  • Pay close attend to space and crowd flows. This includes developing start configurations which will minimise bunching (for example waves and ensuring faster runs start first), determining pinch points on the course and developing strategies for them (i.e. ‘no over taking zones’), minimising the time runners spend waiting at start and finish areas and not using pacers.
  • Liaise with local residents and businesses to reassure or mitigate concerns

In practice

In practice the guidance will mean some events might look quite different to ‘normal’ but there are no specific diktats on exactly what start procedures must look like or the numbers of competitors taking part.

Gavin Lightwood, RunBritain Manager, on a webinar hosted by England Athletics highlighted that every event was different so telling race organisers exactly what their start procedures would need to be be would likely be counter productive. A race with a course which narrows soon after the start, or on a lapped course, might need a different approach to one on a large racing circuit or point to point race for example.

It is likely we will see waved starts, possible time trial or relay formats being used with wave numbers guided by the restrictions of the course or start and finish areas.

During the races overtaking will be allowed provided it can happen whilst meeting government guidance on social distancing – at narrow sections of courses ‘no over taking zones’ or similar restrictions might need to be put in place by races.

Clearly the challenge is greater for mass races but race organisers are nothing if not creative and resilient so it will be interesting to see the solutions they develop.

A desire to return?

What remains to be seen is what kind of demand there is amongst runners to return to races at this time. Some polling by races on social media has led to a mixed response with some suggesting a majority do not feel a return to racing is a good idea just yet.

Clearly though there are some race organisers who are on the edge of not being able to continue and suppliers to races also struggling with the financial impact of lockdown.

A date to restart

Existing licenses issued to road races have not been cancelled but there are additional requirements races will now need to put in place which will take some time. It could be though that some races will feel they are able to return as soon as August provided they can put in pace the necessary measures.

A key limiting factor could be the willingness of Local Authorities to allow races to proceed. Local Authority permission is a key element of the licensing process and some have already ruled out races taking place. It remains to be seen if the guidance from the governing body and the back up of the insurance that sits with the licensed if issued are enough to persuade them.

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