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  • Gary Roethenbaugh

Tackling the Covid-19 challenge head-on: we’re all in this together

The world has been turned upside down by coronavirus (Covid-19), and the endurance sport community has been reeling with countless event cancellations and a knock-on effect across the board. The disruption to our lives, lifestyles and livelihoods will be profound.

Run In early March, the 2020 Tokyo Marathon did go ahead, but only for marathon elites and wheelchair elite athletes. All other events forming part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors have since been rescheduled. New York Road Runners (NYRR) has now cancelled all in-person events and training; and the New York Marathon has been rescheduled to November 1st. Meanwhile, other WMMajors have shifted dates:

  • Boston Marathon, rescheduled to September 14th

  • London Marathon, rescheduled to October 4th

  • Berlin Marathon, rescheduled to September 27th

  • Chicago Marathon, rescheduled to October 11th

This represents a major disruption to race directors, athletes, sponsors and all other stakeholders. A concern also remains around whether or not rescheduled events at the back-end of 2020 will actually be able to go ahead, and how long travel and mass participation restrictions will remain in place.

Triathlon In the world of triathlon, the situation is similar. All events, large and small, have been impacted. The much-heralded Collins Cup, originally scheduled for May 30, has been cancelled and will be rescheduled for 2021.

Elsewhere, IRONMAN has confirmed a number of event cancellations or postponements:

  • The 2020 SUPERSEAL triathlon, originally scheduled for March 15 was cancelled.

  • IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside triathlon, originally scheduled for April 4 has a planned future date in October 2020.

  • IRONMAN 70.3 Florida, originally scheduled for April 19 will not take place as planned.

  • The 2020 IRONMAN North American Championship St George triathlon, originally scheduled for May 2, has been postponed to September 19, 2020.

  • IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Rosa, originally scheduled for May 9 has been postponed.

  • IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria, originally scheduled for May 31 has been postponed.

Cycle For cycling, the Paris-Nice early season pro rider event went ahead as planned, albeit on a scaled back basis. Since then, all major European races have been cancelled or postponed, including:

  • Giro d'Italia

  • Paris-Roubaix

  • Strade Bianche

  • Milan-San Remo

  • Fleche Wallonne

  • Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Sportive / gran fondo events have followed suit across the globe. To date, these have mainly been earlier season mass participation races. For example, the 11th edition of the Mallorca 312, originally scheduled for April 25 has been postponed to October 10, 2020.

In a matter of days, any list showing cancelled events has struggled to keep up to date. The situation has shifted dramatically to one where an event actually taking place has become the anomaly.

Key questions now surround major events such as the Tour de France and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Based on the current trajectory of the virus and ensuing travel restrictions it seems inevitable that these major events will have to postpone or cancel in 2020.

Coupled with this, coaching camps are under the same restrictions as events. And, with events being a core destination for a coached athlete’s journey, and with athletes about to face economic headwinds, the coaching industry is equally feeling significant pressures.

In the world of cycling, going beyond events, Europe has started to see a significant clampdown on recreational cycling activities. Italy, Spain and now France have introduced restrictions that make recreational cycling near-impossible.

In these countries, cycling is generally only permitted if it is close to home and with necessary permissions in place. For example, in France an ‘attestation de déplacement dérogatoire’ (travel certificate) is required to avoid being fined whilst out cycling.

These restrictions apply equally to running, as the clampdown on outdoor activities in certain countries, such as Italy, Spain and France, becomes particularly onerous.

Taking on the challenges The entire endurance sport industry is braced for challenging times ahead. Retail is already massively impacted as footfall dwindles. Even as factories in China and elsewhere in Asia come back on-stream, those production lines are now impacted by reduced market demand across the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions.

The endurance sport ecosystem has never before faced such unprecedented challenges. Yet, this is an industry and a community that thrives on challenge. So, it is hoped that initiatives across the globe can start to make us feel confident of a recovery in the medium term.

We’re therefore going to try and keep abreast of the solutions, innovations and suggestions for a way through this mess.

We’d really appreciate your input on this, and we will post items with your suggestions (after getting your permission of course). So, please get in touch via e-mail (see our contact page), or the comments area below, and give us your thoughts. This might be around the following areas:

  • Virtual training and racing seem an obvious starting point. How can events, coaches and other stakeholders leverage these and ensure buy-in from athletes?

  • Are there other approaches that can be taken beyond virtual that can help with athlete engagement?

  • How should events, training camps and other group activities handle refunds in case longer term postponements are required? Can athletes be encouraged to support events even if racing cannot take place?

  • Is an autumn/fall date for a rescheduled event realistic; and how can we plan amidst such uncertainty?

  • How (if and when) do we lobby governments to permit outdoor activities while a clampdown ensues?

  • Can we get clear guidance on group activities? There is safety in numbers when out training, but how can small numbers of athletes get together on ride/run/swim, etc., activities?

  • What can gyms and studios do amidst such difficult conditions?

  • Can the endurance sport industry build a better dialogue with insurance firms. Some may be holding out on business interruption payments, for example. Are there any options here?

The above is just some food for thought as a starter. We all need to think this through and come up with solutions that can help keep businesses sustainable in the coming months (and years). We will reach out and begin discussion with industry stakeholders to get the ball rolling and we really welcome your input.

We hope that you & yours are keeping well, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Together, and as individuals, we can make the world a healthier and better place.



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