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Ontario race’s COVID-19 measures make in-person event possible

With health and safety precautions in place, the fourth annual Fort Town Night Run will be held on September 26

Photo by: Fort Town Night Run

The fourth edition of the Fort Town Night Run (FTNR) in Prescott, Ont., is scheduled for September 26, and following months of working to ensure everything is in line with the provincial COVID-19 restrictions, event organizers are confident their race will be able to go ahead as planned. The event has race options of 5K, 10K and 15K, which is a new FTNR distance for 2020. Organizers expect to see 400 runners across the three races, plus 100 children in a kids’ 1K race that will be held on September 27. There’s also the option of a virtual race, which the FTNR has offered for the last couple of years. The race crew consists entirely of volunteers, and all of the proceeds raised from the race will be donated to local charities in Prescott. 

Photo: Fort Town Night Run

Racing during a pandemic

As its name suggests, the FTNR is usually run at night, and in past years it’s been held in May. Due to COVID-19, that had to change, and the volunteer organizers postponed their event until September. Once they made that call, they began to work on meeting the COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario. 

“When we started replanning the event in March, we were in Phase 1 in Ontario with very strict regulations,” says Julie Larose, publicity and volunteer coordinator for the FTNR. “We tried to figure out a way to make this happen, even if we stayed in Phase 1. So even if tomorrow the province shuts down and returns to that first phase, we’d still be able to go ahead with the race.” 

The biggest issue for any race right now is limiting the number of people on the course and at the start and finish lines at the Fort Wellington National Historic Site next to the St. Lawrence River. Many races are resorting to staggered starts, but the FTNR team is taking that to the next level. Instead of sending waves of 10 or so runners out and onto the course over a period of a few hours, the start of the FTNR races will be staggered over more than 12 hours, with the first wave leaving at 8 a.m. and the final one starting at 8:30 p.m. 

Photo: Fort Town Night Run

“There will be no more than five people at any time in one spot,” Larose says. Waves will consist of just two runners each, but she adds that some families may end up racing together. “There might be slightly larger groups for people of the same household.” 

Three weeks out from the race, about 250 people have signed up for the in-person race, but Larose and the FTNR crew are confident they’ll reach their race capacity of 400 runners. “Over the past couple of years we’ve had a big surge of registrations in the last two weeks before the race.” 

Larose says she and the team have received several emails and messages from runners expressing their excitement for the race. “People seem so grateful that there is a run for them to train for and that we’re doing this for them.” She says they have been in touch with the health director of the Boston Marathon and with officials from Athletics Ontario, who are watching eagerly “to see if this template works and they can pass it along to other small local races.” 

Photo: Fort Town Night Run

Supporting local charities 

For a small race, the FTNR has had impressive fundraising results since its inaugural running. In 2017, the race’s first year, they raised $3,000. In 2018, they tripled that to $9,000, and last year they topped out at more than $10,000. Larose and the team are hoping to see similar numbers this year, especially since many charities have struggled during the pandemic. Proceeds are primarily donated to the SKBP Venturer Scouts and local Scouting groups, as well as the town’s Youth Movement Project, but Larose adds that they will donate money to “any local charity that sends us volunteers.”

To learn more about the Fort Town Night Run and to register for either the in-person or virtual races, click here.

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