Spartan announced on Wednesday their first rescheduled race since COVID-19 came upon the scene. It's in Jacksonville on June 13 if you're interested. They also announced their new safety guidelines. You can read these on your own time, but I'll refer to most of them in this post. At a high level they talk about cleaning and sanitizing, wearing protective equipment, social distancing, screening prior to the race, and course adjustments.
In Spartan's defense, somebody had to start somewhere, and I respect that Spartan wants to get back to business, get their staff back to work and bring back obstacle course racing. But I have some concerns about the timing and the new rules:
General Timing: Does Spartan really need to go back this early? I realize there's a level of planning involved, but based on the White House's guidelines (that's a whole other tangent), only two states at this time have cleared the gating criteria to go back to business as usual. Florida, like many other states, is making progress, but isn't quite there yet.
Cleaning and sanitizing: Much of this feels like the usual "yes, we'll be extra careful" but there's no way to really know if that's happening.
Wearing Protective Equipment: Spartan strongly encourages everyone to wear a mask in the festival area. Great news--they'll have masks for sale! You don't have to run with a mask but I can't help but wonder where I'd put my mask?
Social Distancing: This section discussed topics like reducing the number of runners per heat, assigning times when people can show up and spreading people out at check-in and during the obstacles. One--how do you get an assigned time to leave? Two--Have you been to one of these races? They are the anti-thesis of social distancing. People do these races with friends and co-workers. There's absolutely no way that they can expect people to maintain social distancing. Also, this is going to lead to very long wait times at the obstacles, which gets to my next point.
Event Adjustments: Spartan stated they are removing the water obstacles and the sandbag carry. Okay, fine on the water obstacles, but why the sandbag carry? What about the fact that many of the other obstacles such as monkey bars, climbing walls, cargo nets, rope climb, etc. etc. etc. will all be touched by multiple people? There was also additional language here around no congregating before and after the race, which again, is part of the race culture.
At-Risk People: Spartan also added a section that discourages anyone with any sort of medical issue of any kind to not run. Fine. But what about the people that DO run this and bring all of these germs back to their less "healthy" family and friends?
Many of the above items feel like the usual, "we're doing extra sanitizing, social distancing, insert other buzz words." Other parts of it feel illogical at worst or poorly thought out at best. I didn't see a reference to parking. In most races I run, runners are bused over from parking lots to the race site. You can imagine the cleanliness of these buses when people have been rolling around in mud.
A few weeks ago, a friend that runs her own business said to me that customers will remember how your business responded to this pandemic. I couldn't agree with her more. I know many small business owners are freaking out and I totally get that. But as the largest race organization in the obstacle racing world, Spartan isn't setting a great example for themselves, and I'm curious to see how this affects their participation moving forward. I'll be curious to hear more about how this race goes?
What do you think? Is it too soon? If people want to run and are willing to take the risk, then Spartan has every right to give the people what they want?