As we start to see live events pop up across the country, it’s our mission to spread the word about how to positively navigate the current covid race environment. So, we sat down with GCXC Time Management Timer Matt Imhof to get his take on the very successful, LIVE Killian 5k event they timed a few weeks ago. We will explore the race-day best practices and safety precautions executed at the Killian 5k, and add in additional Pro Tips at every point, sure to take your event to the next level. By learning from past events and our Timing colleagues in the event world, together we can move forward in creating a safe space for events and Athletes during this pandemic.
Check out how GCXC took their Athletes, Staff and Volunteers from registration to celebration at the Killian 5k in Pittsburgh, PA. Please note not all images have been taken from the Killian 5k, additional photos have been supplemented where needed.
- Name of Event: Killian 5k
- Timer: GCXC
- Race Organization: Killian Cavanaugh Foundation
- Location: North Park Boathouse, Allison Park, Pennsylvania
- Date: 7/25/2020
- Number of Participants: 233 registered, 158 timed on site
- Number of Timing Staff on site: 3
- Number of Volunteers on site: 20
- Number of Spectators on site: 30
Killian 5k: In addition to the standard race registration details collected from Athletes at the time of registration, GCXC made sure to ask participants what their predicted pace for the race was. They also made sure to protect the race from liability concerns by making each participant read and click through a liability/terms and conditions waiver, outlining the safety standards.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to add in custom questions for registration parameters that will make planning for social distancing easier. Two big questions to include are 1. What is your predicted pace? and 2. Are you running in a group? This will help you plan for pace-driven start corrals, and ensure that when participants arrive, they are near individuals they will be with throughout the duration of the event, the minute they arrive. For a great example of a race setting the standards in pre-race communication check out the event registration page for the Five on Sixth event, produced by Timer Jim Gerweck.
Killian 5k – The race sent out prerace communication during the time of initial registration as well as in their pre-race communication emails.
Pro Tip: Every time you are communicating with Athletes make sure to include the safety expectations. On your race website, at the time of registration, on your liability waiver, in your confirmation emails, etc. You cannot communicate your standards enough. Whatever you have in mind in terms of where and when to communicate, triple it!
Staff and Volunteer PPE Standards:
Killian 5k: All staff and volunteers onsite were required to wear masks and gloves at all times. If personnel was unable to come prepared, the proper protective items were provided on site.
Pro Tip: Take into consideration the age and health of your volunteers and place them at stations accordingly. For elderly/compromised volunteers, help them out by placing them in positions with lesser face-to-face/hands on interactions.
Off Site Packet Pickup
Killian 5k: In order to lessen the burden of long lines and crowded PPU at the time of the event, GCXC hosted an offsite PPU at a local running store. The event set up a tent outside the running store, manned by volunteers and the race director. Volunteers were the only people touching the ChromeBook check in screens and PPU gear. They were shielded by a tent and plexiglass.
Pro Tip: As GCXC did, in order to convince a running store to help host, consider working with the store to offer in-store coupons or discounts for participants. This can be a great way to gain a sponsor and have tangible metrics for engagement statistics. It is also a great way to help out a local business during these times of retail uncertainty.
On Site Registration & Packet Pickup
Killian 5k: Similar to the off site PPU, GCXC set up plexiglass partitions at the check in stations with only 2 volunteers at each tent, and spaced out check in tents by pace group. Chromebooks were operated by volunteers only.
Pro Tip: If your event can afford to do so, consider eliminating on site registration all together and push for online reg only. This will help reduce the time needed for individuals to stand at check in face-to-face with volunteers and other participants. In addition, similar to the check in tents seen at the Killian 5k, plexiglass or built in clear tent walls can be a great way to keep staff and participants safe. We teamed up with MPA Graphics to show photos of what a branded tent can look like, complete with clear wall-partitions. Check it out below!
Killian 5k: For this race, it was communicated from the beginning that spectators were discouraged from attending. The event had around 30 spectators in attendance and all were encouraged to socially distance from the start and finish lines. The exceptions? Younger athletes or athletes with different abilities who need others in attendance for safety reasons.
Pro Tip: For longer course length events, consider enabling Athlinks Map Tracking. This will allow spectators to follow along with their Athlete, getting real time updates along the course, from a safe distance away, a.k.a their own homes!
On Site Medical Screening
Killian 5k: No official onsite screening of participants was provided at this event.
Pro Tip: Leave the medical screening to the medical professionals. It’s best to leave screening and temperature checks to those with proper liability coverage. This is not a responsibility we recommend Timers or Race Directors taking on themselves.
Killian 5k: Restrooms onsite were provided by the county as it was set at a public location.
Pro Tip: If you’re using restrooms provided by the city, make sure you are communicating with city officials to ensure restrooms have been cleaned/disinfected prior to race start, as well as proper supplies are stocked. If your race has Porto-Johns onsite, consider spacing units out at least 6 feet, and alternate the direction the openings of the the Porto-Johns, in order to disperse lines and crowds of people.
Killian 5k: For this particular race, the location was conducive to staging people for about 100 yard distance through the parking lot. GCXC set up four gator matts, spacing 12 feet in width at the start. Cones set 6 feet apart in each direction (up, down, left, right) were placed in the chute. 5 min before the race, volunteers and staff started the process of filling the start line based on pace. GCXC operated on a 3 person send off schedule, and with a corral full of 45 people, it took about 70 seconds to get each wave off to the races. Masks were not required while in the start chute, and participants did a great job of staying in their designated area. All 158 runners were out in 5 min!
Check out this link to the GCXC Facebook page for a video of the start chute send off, complete with socially distanced start announcements.
Pro Tip: Consider staging the outside of your start chute as GCXC did, by sectioning off areas for runners to congregate by pace. This way runners are already together with the people they will be running with on course, and allows for crowd management and regulation as you move athletes into the start chute. See below from the Killian 5k.
On Course Signage
Killian 5k: While no on-course signage was made specifically for this event, the start line DJ was continually reminding particiaptns the need for socially distancing on course.
Pro Tip: Similar to communication, you can never have enough on-course signage! Posting friendly or even funny signage is a great way to remind runners on course. Check out this example to the left.
Aid Station Protocol
Killian 5k: At the turn around point, two volunteers set up and manned the aid station. They placed 6oz sealed water bottles along two 6ft tables, protected by a plexiglass shield; water bottles were placed on the tables for self-service by athletes. After the turn around, garbage cans were set up every 30-40 yards along the course for Athletes to to self dispose of their bottles.
Pro Tip: At your aid station tent, consider adding tent walls on the three sides that won’t be exposed for your products. This prevents runners from crowding all sides of your tent and funnels them into one side/one line.
Killian 5k: GCXC placed garbage cans all along the start/finish chutes, as well as at various locations on course. This allowed for runners to take their water bottles along with them and have options for disposal along the course.
Pro Tip: Consider investing in trash grabbers to eliminate the need for volunteers and staff to touch trash with their hands, even if gloves are worn!
Finish Line Setup
Killian 5k: As Athletes would cross the finish line, volunteers were standing socially distanced ready to hand out medals. The finish line water tent was placed a few yards further down the chute, complete with sealed, 12oz bottles available for self service. The finish line DJ announced/encouraged that athletes head home as soon as they were finished.
Pro Tip: Similar to how the Killian 5k operated this race, encourage your DJ at the finish to make repeated verbal announcements about the process for collecting medals, and finish line requests for athletes to safely head home. Make the announcements lighthearted and funny to keep up runners’ spirits. Something like “Race Sponsor XZY suggests you grab your medal and head home to catch reruns of Gilligan’s Island; it may finally go off the air after 60 years.”
Killian 5k: For this short race, no aid station or finish line food was provided, due to the nature and non-necessity of a shorter course.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to provide food for Athletes, make sure it is all PRE-packaged. Open buffet bins of bananas, cookies, chips, etc. only contribute to the spread of germs.
Killian 5k: For any given race that GCXC times, normally flat screens hosting live finisher results are placed around the finish line. To eliminate crowded gathering points, post-race screens and results kiosks were eliminated. Instead, Athletes were encouraged to view their results online at Athlinks.com.
Pro Tip: Consider eliminating results screens/kiosks/tents all together and instead include QR codes on participant bibs with links to their direct results on Athlinks.
Killian 5k: This event hosted two on site sponsored vendors whom they spread out with significantly more than 6 feet social distancing. Vendors were not permitted to hand out open, non-packaged products, food and otherwise, and were required to wear masks while engaging with participants.
Pro Tip: Consider eliminating vendors all together. Bottom line, if Athletes have a reason to stick around after the race, they will! You can get creative in different ways to engage sponsors such as in your swag bags, or even better; via digital engagement/coupons for products available to athletes as well as would-be spectators. For example, have your Sponsor record personal videos highlighting their product and send out digital links to all participants, pre or post race.
Final words from Timer Matt Imhof:
Race Directors and Timers need to stress, at first contact, the expectations of the event. These include but are not limited to:
- Publishing race guidelines on your race page
- Publishing race guidelines on your Timing Company page
- At the time of registration, publishing Terms and Conditions for participants to read and click through
- Publishing/announcing expectations at PPU locations, on and off site
- Communicate expectations in your pre-race social media posts, pre-race emails, etc.
- Announcements from the DJ announcing expectations while on site.
One final big question: How should race organizers and timers enforce mask wearing and social distancing on site?
Matt recommends zoning off the festival/race area and building a funnel entrance for all personnel. At that point you can better regulate who is coming and going and enforce that masks are required to get into the designated area. At the same time, Timers and Race Organizations have a responsibility to keep themselves and their staff safe, and that includes safety from confrontation. His advice, come to a verbal or written agreement on enforcement action/policies internally before the day of the event, ensuring staff and volunteers are all on the same page.
A huge thanks to the team at GCXC for their hard work and the content they provided for this piece. If you have any questions regarding the information above, or would like to discuss best practices for safely opening up your next event, please reach out directly to National Sales Manager Kevin Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. With any other questions regarding resources for how to safely open events in your area, please reach out to Marketing Manager Molly Christopher at email@example.com.