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COVID-19 Safety Changes for Running & Cycling Races

Runners and bikers
For the second year in a row, runners and cyclists in the Richmond region will have to adjust expectations and their race calendars because of the pandemic. (Photo: Courtesy Phil Riggan) 

For runner Chris Mason, this will be the second time in two years he won’t be running in the traditional Monument Avenue 10K. However, it’s not because he’s nursing an injury or has a prior engagement. It’s because race organizers had to once again move the race date and location due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Let's face it. I mean, we knew it wasn't gonna be the same,” said Mason, who’s been running races for years, including nine marathons and two ultra-marathons. 

He ran in last year’s modified Monument Avenue 10K, which organizers moved from March to September, and split into four alternative race routes to ensure physical distancing.

This year’s event will have fewer routes, but will be spread over three days in early June. The route options are at  Dorey Park along the Capital Trail in Henrico or in Byrd Park, in Richmond.

Meghan Keogh of Sports Backers, the group that has been organizing the event since 2000, says they chose June out of caution around the coronavirus.

“The biggest reason we wanted to move from March until June: it was that the [COVID-19] numbers were continuing to go up in the fall and into January. And we just weren't sure where we would be in March,” she said.

Keogh says their number one concern was people’s safety.

“With the COVID regulations what they are now, we just can't be in a big group on Monument Avenue,” she said. “So this alternative format allows us to spread people out over two locations over multiple days and over a lot of hours.”

And Keogh says with the vaccine rollout in progress, moving the race to June gives people more time.

The changes might be inconvenient, but Keogh says the  format does have some perks for runners. 

“They don't have to come out at you know, 8:30 a.m. on Saturday with everybody else,” she said. “If they want, they can come out at two o'clock on Thursday and do it when there's probably going to be less people around.”

Other perks for those who choose to run the 6.2 miles include course signage, mile markers, a medal, a start and finish line and a chip for timing, something that wasn’t available last year.

Mason, who has signed up to run the race at both parks, said, “You have to have something that keeps you motivated. And whether it's virtual or not, you know, it keeps you driven for a little bit to have a purpose.”

He adds  many runners look forward to sharing -- and boasting about -- their results. 

“I like being able to have official results because it makes it feel more authentic,” he says. “The running community is pretty funky about having PRs [personal records] and tracking stuff. So yeah, it makes a difference because we are competitive.”

Cap Trail
Looking toward downtown Richmond along Virginia's Capital Trail. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

Cap2Cap Revamped

Changes are in store for cyclists looking to ride in the 16th edition of the annual bike event along Virginia’s Capital Trail. The Cap2Cap offers riders a chance to pedal the 52-mile route from Richmond to Wlliamsburg.

“COVID has changed our event, and we're trying to have fun with it,” said Cat Anthony, executive director of the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation.

Last year’s event was held over a two week period in August. But this year, the ride will return to its original dates surrounding Mother’s Day with riders having three days to complete different mileage goals on the trail. 

Unlike the Monument 10K, there will be no start or finish line.

“What we're doing is people can start from Dorey Park, or really anywhere on the trail,” Anthony said. “Last year, we did it fully virtual. This is kind of an in between where people can still experience a great ride day. But you choose one day, and you choose your own route.”

Anthony adds that another difference between last year’s event and this year's is that riders will have more support, in the form of rest stops, water bottle refill areas and a boxed lunch. Plus, bikers 21 and older will get a beer ticket to be redeemed at Hardywood Brewery.

For this year’s Cap2Cap, Anthony says almost 800 people have already signed up, 300 more than last year.

That comes along with a surge in regular biking on the trail, which Anthony says began when the pandemic took over daily life.

“We hit over 1.2 million trail counts for last year, and I believe we were up around 46%. So a huge increase in trail usage,” she said.

Registration for the Monument Avenue 10K just started. Keogh says she expects a healthy registration, though not as many as a normal year.

“So we had about 15,000 people that were still registered [last year],” Keogh said. “We allowed free deferrals, and we had about just over 6,000 people that opted to defer their entries for a year.”

Runner Chris Mason says one of the best reasons to sign up for race events, regardless of where or when they’re held, is that the money goes toward nonprofits and charities.

For the Monument Avenue 10K, Sports Backers raises money for the VCU Massey Cancer Center and Kids Run RVA. While 100% of the proceeds from the Cap2Cap Bike Ride will benefit the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation.