What makes a new runner race his first 5K, live and in person, during a pandemic? “I wanted to go out and do something to get my hero cookie for facing many challenges both external and internal,” says Michael Kenny, a 45-year-old masters swimmer who took up running earlier this year when pools were shut down and he knew he needed to stay focused on his personal health. Having a similar level of focus and fortitude kept race director Barrie Shepley and his team focused on maintaining the Nuvo Iron Eggnog Jog 5k as a live race.
Virtual racing has been a big deal for most runners interested in any kind of competition this year. And rounding the corner to end off 2020, the chances of crossing a start line with other runners did seem like it was going to happen, until it did. Last weekend’s Eggnog Jog 5K gave runners a taste of that race day experience. Even a last-minute change in the race location (a decision made to avoid the regional pandemic shutdown prohibiting large gatherings) didn’t deter race organizers. As Shepley well knows, there may have been 1,000 reasons not to host his event, but for his team this was an opportunity to bring some of the race day energy and excitement back to running, in a safe, healthy and socially distanced manner.
With three backup location options, in the end the 38th edition of the Eggnog Jog 5K was held at Woodington Lakes Golf Club and it was the first time the race was held over two days. With safety precautions being a top priority for race organizers, waves of 22 runners started out on the course at one time. While all of Canada’s race directors look for ways to hold variations of their live events, and put forth amazing virtual options, Shepley’s team was able to figure out how to hold a race. Along with keeping everyone at a distance, masks were required for runners prior to crossing the start line, after crossing the finish line and everyone was asked to leave after they had completed their race. The two-and-a-half-kilometre loop challenged runners with its rolling hills, while offering scenic views of the lake and golf greens. With 750 runners racing in person and another 150 taking the virtual option, Shepley believes the event has been one of the largest races of the year.He is also grateful for the incredible support of the running community, including Sportstats and VR Pro teams, Athletics Ontario and volunteers from C3 Training and Woodington Lakes Golf Course. “We are very honoured and blessed that we were able to hold our event,” says Shepley, “And find creative solutions, and implement safety strategies that were safe for our volunteers, participants and the local community.”
Crossing the finish line of his first race, Kenny isn’t entirely sure when or where his next goal race may be, but he is proud of how far he’s come. “In many ways, I’m obligated to do what I can for my well-being,” says Kenny. “Weight loss and conditioning were a given, but overall health is the ultimate goal.” It’s a goal many runners will also be looking ahead to with New Year’s resolutions on the horizon, along with more opportunities to race in person in the year ahead. While runners across the country participate in #startlineimpact tweets about missing their in-person races, a word of comfort, then, about what—and when—in-person events might return.