On Wednesday, race organizers across the country set up start lines as part of a campaign by the recently-formed Canadian Endurance Sports Alliance (CESA) called #StartLineImpact. Events were cancelled everywhere this year, and many race organizations are now struggling to stay afloat. The #StartLineImpact initiative is meant to “mark the endurance season that never was,” according to Toronto-based race company Good Times Running (GTR).
The global race industry is collaborating to create covid-secure protocols for the safe return to racing.
From Dec 1 – 31 share what races mean to you using #StartLineImpact
Post your race memories and tag your local gov't officials, brands & run media!
Great prizes for posts! pic.twitter.com/oMTZbJoyGf
— Banff Marathon (@BanffMarathon) December 2, 2020
CESA includes 160 companies that manage running, triathlon, cycling and other endurance events, and in 2019, they provided racing opportunities to a collective two million people nationwide. GTR is one such member, all of whom were hit hard during the pandemic.
“These races are the primary source of income for the entire year,” says GTR owner Peter Donato. “It’s like our Christmas season.” Many races switched to virtual formats when COVID-19 took in-person racing off the table, and while this was a better option than not holding any events at all, Donato adds that it’s not a sustainable business model. In 2019, GTR saw 3,500 racers, but that number dropped to 500 in 2020 with virtual events.
— Toronto Women's Runs (@TOWomensRuns) December 2, 2020
“We know from more recent numbers and survey results that virtual interest is waning,” he says. “It doesn’t provide the same satisfaction and experience to train for and do a virtual race for runners or race organizers.” He continues, adding, “we don’t expect people to be as willing to do [a season of virtual racing] twice.”
According to Brian Gallant, owner of Sinister Sports in Alberta, a huge number of CESA members are at risk of going out of business within the next year. “Our members are taking advantage of everything available to them from all levels of government,” Gallant says, “but our recent survey data shows 65 per cent of our members won’t make it to 2021 without further support or a clear return to racing.”
— Manitoba Marathon (@mb_marathon) December 2, 2020
Runners and other endurance athletes are of course aware that they missed out on a season of in-person racing this year, but the #StartLineImpact campaign is meant to bring attention to race organizers themselves, the people most affected by these cancellations. As a show of support for these local race companies, the CESA is asking athletes around Canada to take to social media to share their favourite race memories using #StartLineImpact. That hashtag can also be used to see what races have erected start lines of their own. Finally, there is a CESA fundraising page, which can be found here, for anyone who would like to help the many races across the country that are struggling.