Just weeks before the 2020 ultrarunning slate in New England was set to kick into high gear, the sport — and most of everyday life — is grinding to a halt thanks to the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Schools have been shuttered for weeks or more, workers have been ordered to stay home and work remotely if possible, layoffs have begun in the service industry and others, and life as normal has ceased to be, well, normal.
The world of trail- and ultrarunning hasn’t been unscathed by the COVID-19 global pandemic, either. Races around the world have been either postponed or canceled, including here in New England. The Trail Animals Running Club’s annual TARC To Hale and Back 6-Hour Ultra was supposed to take place Sunday, March 22, at Westwood’s Hale Reservation but it was canceled at the urging of the Westwood Board of Health. On Monday, the Cape Cod Trail Race canceled its April 19 event in Falmouth. Then, on Wednesday evening, The TARC Spring Classic set for April 25 became the third race in the Bay State to cancel. In neighboring Connecticut, the Traprock 50K on April 18 was also canceled. Other races in the region are evaluating the rapidly evolving situation to decide whether to proceed as planned, postpone or cancel completely.
Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered stoppage of all gatherings of 250 people or more. On Sunday, March 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that events of 50 or more people be postponed or canceled for the next eight weeks. That same day, Baker dropped the maximum allowable gathering size to 25. The following day, March 17, the non-profit researchers at Ultra-Endurance Sports Science & Medicine issued the following trail- and ultra-specific recommendation:
“We now recommend that all organized endurance sporting events (group training, meetings, races, etc.) of more than 50 people (including organizers, athletes, spectators, volunteers, etc.) scheduled to occur before 15 June 2020, be immediately canceled or postponed. This is consistent with guidance released earlier today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), except that we are recommending that events be canceled or postponed that are in the next 3 months rather than the next 2 months. If by 15 May 2020, the pandemic continues to grow, then an additional month of cancellation is warranted.”
Read the full statement here.
While To Hale and Back, the Cape Cod Trail Race and the TARC Spring Classic have been canceled, other Massachusetts ultras are still scheduled to take place, but race directors have made it clear that there are no guarantees. Mt. Toby 50K Race Director Amy Rusiecki continues to monitor the situation for her April 11 event. The inaugural Plymouth’s Long, Hard & Dirty 50K and 8-Hour Ultra is still on as scheduled for April 18, however registration has been halted. The same goes for Berkshire Ultra Running Community for Service whose races begin in late May and run through September.
“Given the unknown around future permits and with the safety of our community in mind, we have chosen at this time to pause registration for all 2020 races,” wrote Benn Griffin, a race director for several BURCS events. “It is very likely that the races will end up being canceled and we will move to do so when appropriate as we receive guidance from various state and federal authorities. If canceled, we will communicate with registered runners at that time in regards to refunds or donation options as we do not wish to profit in any way from this crisis. For earlier races some expenses may have already been baked in but we will do the best we can to cross that bridge when we get there.”