The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us feeling monotonous and exhausted. Remote work and decreased access to gyms and fitness centers has forced many people into sedentary lifestyles, and decreased their ability to engage in physical activities. Outdoor athletic events, like Spartan races, are one way for people to exercise and stay healthy during these extraordinarily challenging times.
Since the start of the pandemic, many people have found themselves asking the same questions: "What can I do for exercise? And how can I do it safely?”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spartan has created safety protocols and made event changes that answer both of these questions. In order to continue hosting safe, enjoyable, challenging races, Spartan is adhering to strict pillars of safety for both racers and staff. These safety measures follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for outdoor gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Though it is impossible to completely remove the risks of contracting COVID-19, Spartan's outdoor race setting, social distancing measures, and reduced contact protocols all help to create a safer racing environment.
Reduced Risk of Outdoor Transmission
When thinking about the safety of large gatherings, it is important to consider the setting. Research has found that single-day outdoor gatherings with social distancing have reduced rates of COVID-19 transmission, when compared to indoor gatherings. The risk of COVID-19 transmission at outdoor gatherings is dependent on things such as:
- The amount of time spent in close contact with others
- The number of people at the gathering
- The use of face masks
When done properly, the risk of outdoor transmission can be at least 18.7 times lower than when indoors, and it occurs so infrequently that outdoor transmission — particularly when social distancing or using masks — is rarely described in the medical literature. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets and aerosols that are released into the air while talking, laughing, coughing, and breathing. Indoors, these droplets remain in the air for minutes to hours. Outdoors, droplets and aerosols are dispersed rapidly, resulting in a lower risk of transmission to others. Since racers will be moving continuously through the racecourse, the possibility of extended close contact is very low, which reduces the chance of the virus spreading between racers.
Reduced Capacity and Social Distancing
The CDC says that reducing the size of in-person gatherings and social distancing — maintaining six feet of space between individuals — can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Spartan races will function at 25%-75% of their standard capacity to reduce the number of individuals that will be on the course at any given time. In order to accomplish this, Spartan is requiring individuals to register online prior to race day, to ensure that they can monitor the number of individuals that will be on the grounds and have enough space for social distancing.
Additionally, racers will be sent out in heats every five minutes to facilitate social distancing and reduce the chances of close contact. By limiting arrival time to 30 minutes prior to the start of the race, each heat will function as a small-sized gathering and reduce the chance of transmission between heats.
In addition to ensuring adequate space for social distancing on the racecourse, organizers will also ensure that there's adequate social distancing at certain “contact points" — areas of the event where people are likely to come together. This includes:
- Check-In (Registration) Area
- Start Line
- Water Stations
- Merchandise Area
- Finish Line & Medal Collection
- Food and Beverage Queues
In order to reduce the likelihood of transmission on the event grounds, health screenings will be done online at registration on race day. If a participant screens positive — or is at high risk of currently being infected — he or she will not be able to enter the race venue on race day. Participants who are at high risk of currently being infected will be offered a transfer of their registration to a future race. It's important to note that the health screenings are not a replacement for social distancing or mask use.
Cleaning and Reduced Contact
COVID-19 is primarily spread through the air, but there remains a small possibility of transmission through surface contact. To prevent this from occurring, we have limited the number of surfaces that will be touched, and have increased cleaning measures. Racers will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer prior to every obstacle and when entering the festival grounds.
We'll Be Masked Up
Masks have proven to be extremely effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Spartan staff members are required to wear masks any time they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from each other or racers. Racers will be required to wear masks at all times, except during the actual race. When choosing a mask, it is important that it has two or more layers of fabric. Masks will not be required during the race itself, given that racers will be able to maintain a safe distance from other runners, and there will not be prolonged contact with other individuals.
Given the nature of the start and finish areas of the race, masks will be required at those points on the course. Racers will be expected to have their own mask at the start. If a racer’s personal mask gets wet or dirty during the race, he or she will be provided a clean mask at the finish line.
Testing Our Staff
Every member of our staff is required to follow a multi-test COVID-19 protocol, and we’ve partnered with Eurofins to make this process easy and reliable. Before traveling to the race location, all staff must provide a negative PCR test result, which can be done using Eurofins’ at-home COVID PCR test kit. Additionally, once they arrive at the venue, they must take a rapid antigen test facilitated by Eurofins.
COVID-19 testing is not required for race participants. However, if you wish to race with absolute confidence, Eurofins makes at-home COVID-19 testing easy. Their testing kits are shipped directly to you within 24 hours, and they only require a mid-nasal swab sample. (No brain tickle necessary.) Once you complete your test, you’ll receive your results within 48 hours.
The Last Word
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the way we exercise and interact with others. When considering activities, it is important to consider the safety of the activity and the measures in place to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Spartan’s safety measures and race modifications all work to create a racing experience that allows athletes to be outdoors and challenge themselves in the safest way possible.