Do you remember the times when we used to race at will? Then Covid happened and we couldn’t race at all. Now, just as everyone is getting fed up with all the virtual racing nonsense, we can participate in real races again. But things are not what they used to be…
Last Saturday, I took part in my first ever socially distanced race, organised by F3 Events. Finally, their race results now count towards PO10. Essentially, it is a guarantee that the course length is measured accurately….which in this instance it was not! Us 10K competitors had the pleasure of running 10.3ish kilometers, and the lucky 20mile runners were gifted a bonus half mile! Yay….not. For some (like me) it meant a loss of what otherwise would have been a PB (although, in my case the PB was so miserable that I am not even sad about it). But let’s cut the F3 guys some slack as this was one of the first real-life races in the country so most of us were just happy to run and get a pretty medal.
So how is it to race in a Covid-compliant setting? Let me sum it up for you:
- No spectators
That’s right. It is a race, not a family day out. No supporters allowed. No crowds. No loud music. No terrible commentators. No ice cream vans and coffee stalls. If you need the above elements to get pumped and run fast, you are not in luck. If, on the other hand, you just want to be left alone to run, this a perfect crowd-free environment.
- No bag drop
Ok, this might be F3 specific, but before your race, check carefully comms from your organiser. No bag drop essentially means you have to arrive by car and use your vehicle as your belongings’ storage. If you are a public transport kind of person – too bad.
- Staggered starts
Instead of a set start time, we were given a half-hour window which made the whole experience way more chilled because the usual fear of missing the start was eliminated. F3 warned us that it might feel like being on a conveyor belt. The reality was that it was simply relaxing. A mate of mine rocked up to the start four minutes after the last window and the staff (who were nearly packed up) let him go for it. I doubt this would happen during a traditional race.
On the other hand, starting alone had a bit of time trial feeling about it. And if you need someone to compete against in order to perform, you might find this kind of racing much harder.
- Medals and rewards
Don’t expect anyone to hang a medal on your sweaty neck. You have to collect it wrapped in a bag from a table. Also, no cups at water stations – all bottles are sealed and unscrewing them costs you precious seconds. And finally – no podium! You don’t even know if you won until the official results get published, so if you really like recognition, you will be disappointed…
I saved the best for last. Do you remember the horrendous pre-race loo queues? The terrible dilemma whether to go once or twice? The fear of missing the race start while standing in a mega long queue? The complex calculations to determine when the best time to start queueing is? All of that horror is now gone!! The toilet experience was simply delightful! Zero queue. Toilets dedicated to specific race distances. Cleanliness. Plenty of hand sanitiser. Couldn’t be better!
So my overall verdict is: Yes, I love Covid-compliant racing! I appreciate it is different to what we were used to, and if you need crowds and supporters and direct competition to enjoy/perform, it might not be your cup of tea. The bottom line is – we want to race and if this is the only way to do it, then we shall be there, at a socially distanced start line, ready to kick some bottom!