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Notes: If you want to cut out my preamble – go straight to the section on “Future Mass Participation Events”
February 2020, my brother in Singapore alerted me about Covid19. We watched the numbers and soon got an understanding of the disease:
- Easily spread and being spread silently by asymptomatic carriers
- Respiratory disorder with fever
- People who have been hit badly have been struggling to get back to normal, taking about 8-12 weeks to get energy and lung capacity back
- People can die – although this is hitting the 55+ hardest.
- Later learned could cause blood clots
Events were still advertising that they would run, so at the end of March, I wrote to a number of event organisers providing a short history of the Spanish Flu & suggestions to help them keep in touch with their customer base. As a person who has seen the benefits of people participating in events, wanted to attempt to help promote new thoughts rather than to continue the false optimism that their event would be going ahead in its normal capacity (e.g. London Marathon). Being positive is also about being real and adapting.
Firstly running is a hobby for 99.99% of runners. The primary purpose for attending an event for this 99.99% is be supported, & event organisers help us reach that goal. These events have invariably helped people push their own boundaries, to experience “the fight” to achieve a goal they have set. Additionally many have experienced improvements in their own well being and confidence. A reminder of some of the wise words from marathon mummy during the 5 Rivers Challenge.
Think we need a fight song for some background music.
To make an event stand out, organisers have challenged themselves to go further for participants, showering participants with stuff: certificates; medals; t-shirts; sponsored goody bags with samples and pointless flyers; massages; an after party rave, etc…. Never mind the waste generated whilst getting there.
As a volunteer for our natural world, I have tried to encourage organisations to fit sustainability in as a secondary thought to their primary objectives. It had to be secondary otherwise no one would take it onboard. And now a change needs to happen as organisers will need to build in better hygiene into their events. Even now there is talk that footballers are required to refrain from spitting and snot rockets to reduce the spread of Covid19 and any future diseases. As said in previous blog posts this is an amazing opportunity for all organisations to reflect, rethink and reboot their entire process. The WHO has set guidelines for countries to share & it is expected that organisations will need to comply with whatever regulations are set up by each country:
Chris Robb who used to organise the Singapore Marathon and founded Mass Participation World has been busy organising seminars, gathering organisations to help them reflect & rethink their strategies with regards to coping with Covid and how they might redesign their processes to incorporate social distancing, as well as raise the hygiene bar for participants, volunteers, vendors & staff. Listening in on some of his seminars, it was exciting to hear the German organisers of major marathon events seeing this reflection period as an opportunity to restructure the operations of the race event.
Will share the thoughts from those seminars and develop them further. Bear in mind this is an evolving situation and these are early thoughts to how events can continue to run during this pandemic and future pandemics. See this article written in 2011 about predicting future pandemics: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2504708/)
Future Mass Participation Events
Let’s first go back some steps and look at the primary objective of a run event.
“To support and encourage participants to achieve their goal”
Pre-Covid: organisers for mass participation events crammed as many participants as they were allowed, balancing health and safety. Why wouldn’t you if this was affecting your bottom line? With Covid19 and for future pandemics, the organisers have the opportunity to connect that with environmental concerns:
- Global warming & pollution from participants travelling to and from an event on fossil fuel driven transportation
- The increasing amounts of waste, specifically single-use packaging like bottles, plastic bags from t-shirts/goody bags/medals, plastic/paper cups, and more.
The objectives could change to:
“To support and encourage participants to achieve their goal and address environmental concerns & conservation”
Let’s talk about the participants.
My guess is in the short term for perhaps up to 2 years, events will have to look at strengthening their local base. Countries will be in and out of lockdown, or have quarantine periods of 14 days (e.g. Singapore, Turkey) before one is allowed to wander around a country. Additionally in the short term, there will be reluctance to catch a flight due to the potential higher viral load in a plane. I remember being infected with a very nasty bug in a flight from Singapore in 2015. On the 14 hour flight, a guy from NZ was coughing very badly and am sure had a fever. 3 days later I had symptoms: that bug got into my lungs and recovery took about 3 months before I could play sport without coughing or wheezing. Viral load is important to how severe one has a virus and the longer the passengers in the plane were together with that man, the greater the chance of being infected, and badly with the current ventilation system.
At the moment the UK government has pretty much told everyone to avoid taking the public transportation system and drive, cycle or walk. Can only roll my eyes as more people will drive, forcing the pollution levels right back up to pre-Covid as most countries have designed their cities for cars.
However, noticeably during lockdown, more people have been using their bicycle. One of the main reasons people tell me they have not used their bicycle is due to feeling that the roads are dangerous to cycle on. The UK government is trying to improve the cycle highway in London, but councils can also get involved to do some simple restructuring on the current road system. Singapore can do the same (having cycled around to get around). People who commute cycle should be involved to help restructure the roads!
If a country has good cycle highways, event organisers, could encourage participants to cycle/run/walk to their events, perhaps with a reward system. If a lady can cycle 55 miles to a running event with a tyre on the back of her bicycle, do the event + pull a tyre the next day and cycle back, am sure there are more hobbyist runners who can cycle and run. It means looking for events closer to home (though I did cycle 2500 miles to run events in Trieste and Geneva) and it has far more boast value than a PB 😉
I was taught how to do the “snot rocket” whilst playing touch rugby. It is pretty gross. But runners and cyclists commonly spit and snot rocket!
In events, I generally have a “rag” tied to my harness so don’t touch it!!!
Some organisers indicated that they are considering DQing participants and remove participants off the course if they continue to spit and snot rocket during the course.
Also anything your mouth touches / sucks, like a gel packet will need to be put into the bin…. Covid 19 is still active for some days depending on the material.
Many participants in running events have been victims of running tossers (participants who toss their cups/bottles/stuff on the ground) – splashed by water from cups or bottles being tossed on the floor or had someone else’s gel packet stuck to their shoe. The cups, bottles, gel packets could be viral loaded and the viral loaded gel packet will be spread around when stuck under a shoe ….. I don’t need to say any more.
Show Your Bottle: BYOR Cup, Bottle, Hydration Bag
Ahhh yes my favourite as it has even more reason to do with Covid19. To reduce the possibility of you catching Covid from volunteers who might be infected and handling bottles, cups, and food – BYOR (Bring Your Own Reusable) cup, bottle, hydration bag. In fact responsible organisers will make this mandatory and have disposable ones ready in case participants have dropped or forgotten theirs. But this will be at a participant’s own risk.
At the seminar, there appeared to be a reluctance to consider asking participants to BYOR, dismissing this fact with a simple – we did what we could and there will always be some risks! It is strange as there was all this discussion about circumventing Covid19 and then to dismiss BYOR.
If someone did catch Covid 19 from an event where organisers continued to provide bottles/cups and it was found that it was from an infected volunteer who distributed the water, or the sweat from an infected runner had dropped into an open cup (yeah sweaty runners do drip on other cups as they pick up cups, sometimes even stuff from their nose drips!!), could there be a case of negligence even after signing an indemnity with the organisers?
“Whilst we have done all we can to circumvent infection, you agree we will not be responsible for you contracting Covid19 (or some other type of transmittable disease) from the use of our facilities or due to attending our event”.
If someone is infected by Covid19 and dies, and it is found that it stemmed from the event, the organisation may not actually have “done all we can” if they did not encourage you to BYOR to reduce your personal risk. Here is a case that seems frivolous. You’ll understand it better if you read the source.
“In 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck bought a cup of takeout coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Albuquerque and spilled it on her lap. She sued McDonald’s and a jury awarded her nearly $3 million in punitive damages for the burns she suffered. … And McDonald’s didn’t pour the coffee on her, she spilled it on herself!”Source: https://www.caoc.org/?pg=facts
Pass the Covid19 Tests
Due to the asymptomatic nature of Covid19, there is a strong possibility that events will require you to have a swab test a couple of days before the event. So imagine you’re feeling well, been training hard but test positive, you’ll have to stand down. However the risk of the swab tests being incorrect or mishandled can also occur (you could be negative and swab positive or vice versa). At the end of the day, the organisers have to do their part as much as operationally possible and runners will have to sign an indemnity as indicated previously – to mitigate the organisers being responsible if runners do become infected from an event.
To wear a mask or not to wear a mask that is the question?
Many countries around the world are making it mandatory to wear a mask when you go into the public realm to reduce you transmitting the virus to someone else.
You will sneeze, cough, breathe inside your own mask and keep the majority of potential viruses in your mask. Though this may affect your run, organisers are considering making masks a mandatory requirement to keep volunteers, vendors, & staff safe from you. More info here: https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/sars-cov-2-viral-load-and-the-severity-of-covid-19/
The following DIY project is from a newspaper (I forget which one). Wonder if Trish Greenhalgh is laughing that the editor missed the bit about the pantyliner. A kitchen towel is absorbent but more breathable than a pantyliner. The pantyliner has a layer of plastic to stop stuff getting thru!
Tip: If you have to wear a mask in an event, then strongly suggest you bring a hydration back pack as sipping from a tube is way easier to keep going than having to remove a mask to drink.
Large events love an expo, as it is an opportunity for vendors to sell to a captive audience, who are made to attend to pick up their race number. If a physical expo is to be continued, then social distancing will need to be enforced with temperature monitors to monitor anyone entering and turning anyone away with an elevated temperature. The operational logistics for organisers will increase due to having to manage times when sets of participants can pick up their bib number.
But again reflect on what the expo has been used for:
- Participants pick up a number
- Participants are provided a goody bag
- Vendors use this to market to participants to purchase stuff
This is where technology can be leveraged.
What’s Your Number?
- Mail numbers to participants
- E-mail the number to participants to print off themselves
- Require participants to purchase reusable bibs that can be registered at any event. Come on organisers, get this sorted!
This would reduce the number of times a participant has to travel to an event location and for people who like participating in events, a reusable bib number would have ICE (In Case of Emergency) details. I remember a guy from Belgium complaining at the Nice marathon that he had to travel 400 kms twice for this event. First to pick up his number & second to participate.
What about verification? Digital signatures are already in use online to enter an event. Further to this, large events might consider using some sort of recognition device to match a number to a participant. Currently governments and companies are making a prospective show a recognised identity and themselves online in a live video feed to verify themselves. This is evolving so expect this to be different in years to come to protect your information.
What About the Vendors?
Samples can be provisioned for using e-vouchers as this will encourage participants into a shop (real or digital) and the whole shopping experience can be done in a virtual world. Let’s start with online.
The whole expo experience can be done online which has already been showcased by Alibaba in 2017 & incorporates augmented reality so that you can try on things. There are now many large vendors using this model today.
To enable participants to meet up – implement Virtual Reality (VR) and soon we will get Star Trek’s “Holo Deck”
Just for a little bit more fun – let’s see futuristic expos using the “Valerian” experience
The only thing stopping us having a “Valerian” experience is access to a VR headset. Starting prices are reasonable though assume you get what you pay for. So those chunky helmets are affordable. Microsoft’s HoloLens looks even better as it looks like a pair of sun glasses but is an eye watering price. So let’s see how quickly prices fall…. though you’ll probably be chasing after VR contact lenses when it does.
Gloves vs Disinfectant
Nurses and doctors are trained to wear gloves & wear one pair of gloves per patient to circumvent contamination and passing on infections. Have seen too many general public members outside wearing their disposable gloves whilst in the shops touching everything including their personal items such as bag, clothes, cards, etc. The simple thing is to carry disinfectant to reduce risk to self and wash your hands.
Would expect events to have copious amounts of disinfectant available to everyone to use or everyone to pass through a disinfectant chamber:
Entrance into the Event & Exit from the Event
The entrance would have to indicate distancing from the next person. Some countries are using 1 meter, others 2 meters. There was also talk about having temperature sensors on each participant as they go through the gates along with the regular bag checks – just like flying. Social distancing rules, will mean either you have to get there much earlier than you would normally, or organisers will specify a time when a set of runners should be at the gates in order to create a staggered approach or risk have a long queue. 5,000 runners could potentially create a 1.7 km long queue if 2 metres separation is required and there are say 6 queue lanes. With all the checks in place, say on average 2-5 minutes per person. 2 minutes with no bag and conducting ID checks + temperature + swab green light.
Exit: will still require social distancing but should be quicker.
Woo Hoo after all the obstacles you are on the start line…
Yeah – gonna be one long line due to social distancing. So with the above checks, the run will have to continue with a staggered time as per the entrance. Some organisers suggested playing with the possibility of having sets of runners released by extending the day (could be a long day for volunteers) and/or reducing numbers that can participate.
Presumably from the above Denmark and Germany will allow 4,999 people at an event!
A runners’ etiquette is to run on one side of a road (check country) unless overtaking. In large run events, this seems to be mostly forgotten (ignored) globally! However for the safety of runners this may now be enforced. Depending on the country, you will have a left or right lane for overtaking, otherwise you will need to stay in your lane + observe social distancing…. just like traffic on the motorway. Any run routes that cannot accommodate this with the expected number of runners will have to change.
For organisers this could be a lot more marking & marshaling to ensure clarity especially in a marathon when runners can go “lala” in the latter stages of the event. Also runners’ may have to just go with the flow similar to flowing traffic.
It was suggested to place social distancing markers coming towards the end and when “receiving a medal”.
Here’s what I see: you’re heading into the finish line, it’s busy…..in fact crowded. This might mean you have to slow down and get into a queue to ensure social distancing is maintained. If you choose to ignore it trying to do your glory sprint finish because you can beat your PB, you will be talked about as a selfish a***hole + potentially receive a DQ (disqualification) for breaking the rules.
Of course if you are in the top 100 this might not happen, or if you are a slow runner, crowded finish lines are equally unlikely. I know this well 🙂 To accommodate numbers, and increase the chance of a staggered finish, a wide range of completion times would be more beneficial than having a narrow range of times as well as simply having less runners. With less runners, organisers will have to increase the marathon charge to factor in cost of closing down roads, police, medical care and other logistics.
After all the obstacles to get into an event, a runner will probably be happy to just get to the finish and still be healthy after. The new boast would be, being able to complete an event during Covid19!
As for the medal – make it digital to avoid the queue. Umang from Mubai has been encouraging events to make e-medals https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/fitness-route-by-umang-kochar-india/id1508184451?ign-mpt=uo%3D4
To keep the memory alive, write a blog post about what you achieved. It will inspire others and provide you a better memory.
Aid Stations: Provision of Drink and Food
This is an opportunity to instill good practices of “put it in the bin”
More people handling stuff means an increased chance of someone infected handling stuff! Runners dipping their hands into plates / bowls of food will certainly need to change. There are runners who get snotty and use their hands to wipe away snot! Of course runners who think the risk is small will still be dipping their hands into spectator offerings.
With social distancing expected to be practiced throughout the event, you can expect the queues at the aid station tables to be long and if it is food, expect single item packets of food to be provisioned. A “finger banana” would be perfect (available in Asia)
If organisers want to support a runner, then have them bring their own nutrition. Pre-Covid days, organisers (like Berlin Marathon) have been trialing runners providing their own refreshments. It would be like having a drop bag at an ultra marathon.
In 2019, Nice marathon provisioned for runners who brought their own cup, having “water only” stations every 5 km. There were approximately 25,000 runners running at the same time with a good number who had BYOR. Volunteers poured water into the runners’ cups as well as runners self served themselves from bottles.
Here is my write up about the Nice Marathon and going cupless: https://tyrelady.wordpress.com/2019/11/25/85-nice-cannes-marathon/
Also for more information about cupless events see here:
Volunteers will have to undergo the same swab tests and temperature checks. It will be mandatory for all volunteers to wear masks, especially those on the front line & handling food and hydration. Volunteers who will need to interact with many participants may have to wear PPE to reduce their chance of being infected. Wearing PPE in warmer temperatures will make the volunteer hot and uncomfortable especially as they might be expected to wear it for long periods of time. It will also need to fit correctly to be effective.
At the aid stations, the number of volunteers will be reduced due to social distancing and the risk of losing volunteers coming to event day is very possible. With lesser numbers, will be an even bigger process nightmare for volunteers if they still have to prepare cups of water for runners. At the SCSM 2019 although the volunteers were highly organised, they were also very stressed. This was also seen at the Nice Marathon at cupped stations. Can only encourage event organisers to strongly consider having water-only stations and runners BYOR (as above). Safer event and less stressed volunteers.
Perhaps there will be spectator blocks created, but be prepared for social distancing if you want to support someone or even the event itself. Please do not provide bowls of food where many runners can dip their potentially infected hands into. Again if multiple people got a disease from dipping their hands into the same bowl as an infected person & one died, I wonder if this would be a manslaughter case…
This mega post has absorbed many days of my time and will be ripped off as soon as it is published! If you have found the information useful, please consider a small donation to EarthWatch which is a charity close to my heart that is saving many lives as it looks at the impact on our planet and how we can better conserve our resources https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/tyrelady
Keep reflecting about our environment and what you can do to reduce your impact as well as continue to give yourselves personal challenges. People who are feeling trapped together (like families), remember to continue to practice Love & Tolerance.
Next blog post will be in July