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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most trail races scheduled for this spring have been cancelled, and many others coming up this summer have met this same fate. In this article, I interview Lyle Anderson, race director of the Bryce Canyon Ultras, in Hatch, Utah, who has decided to hold his event this coming weekend – May 30-31. We discuss how he came to the decision to host the race, measures he’s taking to ensure the safety of the participants, volunteers, and spectators and tips for other race directors wondering whether or not they should hold their events this summer.
[TAYTE] Could you give us an introduction to your event, its history and how it started?
[LYLE] The race was started in 2013 by Ultra Adventures. It was a part of the Ultra Adventures racing schedule, which consisted of other notable trail races such as Antelope Canyon Ultras , Monument Valley Ultra, Capitol Reef Ultra and Tushars Ultra. In 2016, Vacation Races bought Ultra Adventures and all their races including the Bryce Canyon Ultras.
[TAYTE] Bryce Canyon Ultras is one of very few trail running events happening this month. How did you make the decision to host the race and what factors influenced your decision?
[LYLE] We have looked at each of our events individually and made decisions based on Utah state and local guidelines. Utah has not been as badly impacted by the coronavirus as other states so has been able to make early moves to open up the state. We have been in constant communication with local permitting agencies to help us make the most informed decision. Based on several conversations that we’ve had with these agencies, we came to the conclusion that with some adjustments to the format we could safely hold the event.
[TAYTE] What has been the response to your decision to host the race?
[LYLE] The response has been mixed. I sent out a survey to all the registered participants about two weeks before we made the decision about whether or not to hold the race. We asked if they would be able to attend the event if we decided to hold it. Based on that survey, 50% said they would plan to come. I have had several appreciative emails from runners expressing their gratitude to us for making the decision to hold the event. I have also had a few from people not happy with our decision. Overall, we’ve had many more positive than negative responses, which gave us confidence us to hold the race.
[TAYTE] What measures have you taken to ensure participants, race staff, volunteers and spectators feel safe at the event and are you doing anything special with the way the course is set up or how the race is run?
[LYLE] We will not be holding an expo for this event. We will have a drive up bib pick-up service the day before the race. Runners can also drop off their drop bags the day before. All race staff will be wearing masks and gloves. We will have hand sanitizer available for participants and staff. We have also dramatically changed our aid station menu offerings. We will only be serving single-serve, pre-packaged grab-and-go food items. This includes individual packets of Gnarly electrolyte drink, Pickle Juice shots, and several salty and sweet items for participants to choose from.
[TAYTE] How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your race registration numbers?
[LYLE] We were doing better than last year until March hit, then registration came to a screeching halt. We would have been up this year otherwise.
[TAYTE] What advice would you give to other race directors who are currently deciding if they should hold or cancel their events this summer?
[LYLE] I would recommend keeping in constant communication with local permitting agencies to find out how they feel about the event. It’s important to keep a good relationship with those agencies. You don’t want to force an issue that could jeopardize future events and relationships.
Editor’s Note: Be safe as we continue to navigate the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to follow the recommendations and updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including proper hygiene practices. Also consider reading iRunFar’s COVID-19: A Trail Running and Ultrarunning Community Guide.