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Outbreak leaves road racing scene at standstill

Tanner Cook • Mar 24, 2020 at 1:37 AM

The recent cancellations and postponements of various events hit close to home for many people, but local road racing took a hard hit when state and federal governments began banning large gatherings.

“Everyone was hit pretty hard by the coronavirus, but road racing took a big hit,” said Hank Brown, We Run Events co-owner and Crazy 8s race director. “I checked in on one of my friends who does a lot of timing for track and road races the other day and he said it wasn’t good. He makes almost 70% of his income from that and all of that money was gone before the season even really got underway.”

Brown said the once-packed racing calendar covering all of March and most of April had seen all events either canceled or postponed. As the racing scene came to a standstill, many runners were frustrated at first before realizing it was a necessary move done for the right reason.

“We were full speed ahead for the Shamrock 4 Miler in Abingdon on Thursday morning and then later that day, Ballad (Health) sent me a note saying the race is off,” Brown said. “After that, everyone started falling like dominoes. I think it will be well into the summer before road racing returns regularly to the Tri-Cities. We’re all just in a holding pattern right now.”

Even larger races like the Boston Marathon, Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Cooper River Bridge Run and Crescent City Classic either canceled or postponed until the fall.

“For all of those races that regularly have a lot of people, it’s completely understandable because of the safety reasons,” Brown said. “You wouldn’t think that a bunch of people outside running would be an at-risk population because most of them are probably healthy, but it’s all or nothing in terms of safety at that point.”

The race closest to Brown’s heart, the Crazy 8s 8K, is still scheduled to run in mid-July, but it is hard to plan too far ahead at this point.

“We actually had several big announcements planned days before everything started getting canceled and we’re really not all that sure of it now,” Brown said. “We hope that Crazy 8s will run again this year because we’re really excited for the things we have planned, but it’s uncertain at this point.

“Another big thing is that some of our sponsors may be hurting right now because they’re not having any business,” he added.

“I don’t care how far down the calendar your event is, if you don’t have sponsors, you don’t have an event of any sort.”

Brown has some experience working with high-caliber athletes and working with USATF. He said recent talks about postponing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for one year are understandable.

“A lot of these athletes have nowhere to train and even for the runners, it’s hard to stay sharp when there are no races going on,” he said. “If you do postpone the Olympics for one year, it’s hard to tell if Japan will be ready or not and it’s hard to tell if some of the athletes will be in the same shape that they are right now a whole year from now.”

Even though social distancing has become the new normal for the general population, outdoor exercise like walking or running is still highly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and completely within the guidelines set by the federal government.

“This is a great time for people to get out and discover either running or walking. You can do it by yourself or with someone else, but it’s something that falls perfectly within the guidelines,” Brown said. “We’re not gathering for group runs and there’s no racing right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and go for a run.”

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