A 413-day dry spell without live racing was a streak that one event owner was eager to break. And when it happened, the event might have been smaller than normal but the feeling of success was equivalent to that of winning an Olympic medal.
J&A Racing, headquartered in Virginia Beach, presented its inaugural Sun Up to Sun Down Trail Race presented by Fruitive on January 30. Participants ran a 5K loop every hour for 10 hours in order to earn the medal (a customized wooden bottle opener) and other swag.
But mostly, they ran because they wanted to – and needed to.
“For over a year, we’ve been anxiously waiting to host a live event,” Jerry Frostick, J&A Racing co-owner, noted in an article in Running USA. “We were devastated when we had to cancel the 2020 Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend just one week prior to the event due to COVID-19.”
As it did throughout the live event industry, necessity became the mother of invention, with event owners trying to come up with ways to keep athletes engaged during their time in quarantine.
“Our staff of eight spent all of 2020 thinking of ways we could bring running to our participants’ homes,” said Frostick. “While virtual racing and challenges have allowed us to virtually connect with our participants, nothing can compare to being able to witness the joy of our participants as they cross the finish line.”
Planning a live event is one thing. Executing it in a way that participants remain as safe as possible – well, that is quite another thing, and a formidable challenge. J&A created a health and safety plan that included first, a limited number of participants. A cap of 250 runners, the top number allowed by executive order from the Virginia Governor’s office, was enforced. The event sold out almost immediately, a testament to the demand for races.
A field of 250 racers is a far cry from the typical event (generally, at one of its signature race weekends in Virginia Beach, J&A would see thousands of participants). But those who came were overjoyed at the chance to compete together.
While masks were not required while actively running, they were mandated at the start and finish lines, as well as in all public gather spaces.
To prevent group gatherings and to enforce social distancing, J&A released runners in waves of 20 people.
“We know that we can host safe events for 250 participants and that our model is ready to be expanded to large events as soon as restrictions are lifted by the State of Virginia,” Amy Frostick, J&A Racing co-owner, reported in the Running USA article. “While hosting a 250 person event is not a sustainable business model, being able to feel the excitement of race weekend gave our entire team a much needed energy boost to keep fighting for the return of safe live events. We are so excited to be back doing what we love.”
Next up on J&A Racing’s docket is the 49th Annual Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend in Virginia Beach on March 19-21. To date, almost every registration category has sold out. Back in 2015, the event hosted a record 30,000 people.
Additional events include the Old Point National Bank Wicked 10K Weekend; the MSP Design Group Big Blue 5K; the Bayport Credit Union Surf-N-Santa 5 Miler; the Crawlin' Crab Half Marathon Weekend; the Chartway Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon Weekend; and the ADP Corporate 5K.