While most of Canada is struggling with COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns that prevent any mass gatherings from happening, runners in New Brunswick have been able to compete in two in-person races in the past two months. The RunNB team and organizers of the Demi-marathon de l’Acadie (DMA) have held a couple of races so far this year, with a run in April and another held more recently on Sunday. Both events had small fields, but they provided athletes with the opportunity to hop into some real-life races, which is something runners all across the country are craving right now.
The team that organizes the DMA (which is a monthly event), had hoped to hold an in-person race in February, but COVID-19 restrictions across New Brunswick forced them to transition to a wholly virtual event. For a while, they thought they might be able to host a small in-person field on a rescheduled race date, but it didn’t work out. Plans for their March race were also upset by the pandemic, and it, too, was held virtually.
In April, though, New Brunswick started seeing a dip in COVID-19 cases, and the DMA team held a race that featured both in-person and virtual fields. That run saw 22 in-person competitors and 19 virtual runners. When Sunday’s race rolled around, there was a catch, says RunNB chairman Donald Wade, and only certain people could run.
“Only runners from Zone 6 in New Brunswick were allowed to participate,” he says. The province is split into seven COVID-19 “zones,” and due to the current restrictions, runners from outside of Zone 6 (which is the Acadie-Bathurst region in northeast New Brunswick) weren’t allowed to race. Despite this, Wade and his team still managed to get 25 people signed up (plus 28 in the virtual event), and while that’s a small field, he says it was great to see people out running.
“Everyone enjoys it,” Wade says. “People are longing to get back to in-person races, and it was a beautiful day for a run.” There were, of course, COVID-19 restrictions in place at the DMA. Runners were socially distanced at the start and finish lines, they had to wear masks when they weren’t on the course and they had to bring their own water and nutrition, as there were no aid stations on the route.
“We give medals to the top three finishers overall and the top three women,” Wade says. “For these races, we couldn’t even hand them out ourselves. We had to say, ‘There it is on the table, that’s yours. You can grab it.'” Wade admits that holding events during a pandemic isn’t easy, but he and his team don’t hesitate to organize these runs.
“We want to keep running alive and our athletes motivated to run,” he says. “It can be tough planning these with COVID, but if we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t do it.” To learn more about RunNB and the DMA, click here.