Race Cancellations and COVID-19

As a runner, you more than likely will take time in the off-season; to sit down and plan the coming season. You will look for the ‘A’ races that hopefully will allow you to shine and achieve those personal goals – you will dedicate hours, weeks and months to prepare.

You will enter ‘B’ and ‘C’ races that will allow you to learn and adapt.

In this scenario, imagine the Race Directors who are planning the races that you will attend. Just as you plan and prepare, so do they, typically one-year in advance so that when the time comes you have a slick, well-prepared event that will allow you to achieve your goal.

Planning and working on a race really is a labour of love and yes, it’s a business.

Race Directors usually start planning immediately after the end of one event. Budgets are worked out, a timeline is put in place and then a team of people, headed by the RD, put a plan in action. This will involve route planning, course marking, providing gpx files, booking venues, planning medical care, arranging for catering, advertising the race, booking cars, maintaining a website, booking a timing system, arranging for photography/video and the list goes on…

It is endless!

To secure services, many of these items are paid well in advance of the race and in most scenarios, a non-refundable deposit will have been paid and at worst, a full balance to ensure that no problems arise.

As an event approaches, typically 8-weeks or less before the event, all invoices are paid and the RD can sit back knowing that a job is well done.

The race fee that you the runner pays doesn’t just cover the day or multiple days of the race, it covers a year or work!

Now imagine you are the RD. You have been diligent; you have crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s. You are, you think, prepared for any eventuality and then Covid-19 comes along and rips your world apart.

Read a simple guide to Covid-19 HERE

Podcast HERE and Audio Feed below

Through no fault of your own, your race is cancelled because one needs to take responsibility for the health and safety of not only runners, but staff and their teams. In many situations, this decision is often taken away from the RD as it comes from a government level.

I am asking you all to take stock of the situation, sit back and take time to reflect on the RD, the team of people involved in the race and the implications of cancelling or postponement.

I personally arrived in Hong Kong in January only to find that as my plane landed in HK, the race I was arriving for was cancelled due to the ever-changing Covid-19 virus.

So, as a runner what can you do?

First of all, there is immense disappointment for each of us on a personal level as an event that we have prepared and dreamed of is removed.

Then attention turns to several scenarios:

  • Can I change my travel plans and what will the cost be?
  • Can I get a refund on the race?
  • Will the race postpone and plan for later in the year?’
  • Will the race defer my place and give me entry next year?
  • What about my hotel booking?

The list goes on.

Let’s be clear here, the Covid-19 scenario is impacting on the world at an unprecedented level. Just yesterday, Omar Hassan writing in The Independent stated that:

‘Coronavirus will bankrupt more people than it kills – and that is a real global emergency.’

Millions of dollars have been wiped from the financial markets but this impact filters down and down to a grass roots level and the impact will be huge for all of us.

 ‘If the virus does directly affect your life, it is most likely to be through stopping you going to work, forcing your employer to make you redundant, or bankrupting your business.’

So, when asking the RD and race for a refund on race entry, please just take time to step back and think, in these special circumstances, can you afford to let that fee go so that you can at least provide an opportunity for that race to return the following year.

Most races will have insurance, but having spoken with multiple insurance experts, the general consensus is, ‘Successful claims under business interruption coverage for infection are not common… Indeed, for example, there are no reported cases in the United States regarding business interruption coverage in connection with human infectious disease epidemics or pandemics.’ – via stroock.com

Even sport specific insurance companies who look after runners/ sports people doing ‘extreme’ sports are confirming that there is no cover for disease, virus or pandemic.

In the last week, Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, Madeira Island Ultra Trail, Ultra Skymarathon Madeira and so many more have had to pull the plug on a 2020 event. Even the iconic Marathon des Sables has had to postpone and the financial impact of this is still yet to be seen.

In the words of one Race Director, ‘When the Government cancel all Sport Events or public gatherings we are in big trouble, insurance does not cover us in case of pandemics.’

Masako Suzuki, of Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji recently sent out a press release and in it he says:

‘…we apologize for causing great trouble to racers who have been training and preparing for this race, volunteers who have participated in the course maintenance thus far, volunteers who were planning to work during the race, and UTMF supporters including sponsors, companies participating in the UTMF Expo, public and private organisations, and local people.’

The impact is far reaching, cancellations are happening everywhere, and racing is just one aspect. Schools are closing, employees are being asked to work from home, airlines are reducing flights daily and asking staff to go on unpaid leave, hotels are empty, and restaurants are closing. Covid-19 is without doubt a health crisis but it is also an economic crisis.

“It may one day be said that the coronavirus delivered the deathblow to the New World Order, to a half-century of globalization and to the era of interdependence of the world’s great nations.” – WND here

One of the key jobs of a race team is risk management, many races, UTMF, MIUT, USM and so on all started to look at logistics and emergency planning long before the decision to cancel was made. The money is spent!

So please, when you ask for a refund or deferment, just ask the question,

‘Can I let my fee go for 2020?’

And in the process, hopefully, the race you entered will be around in 2021.

It is highly likely that some races will not recover from this but we as runner’s and a community, in a small way, can help keep the sport we love alive to fight for another time.

‘I have been organising #USM for some years now with a fantastic team. We always aimed high because we were convinced, he had a SUPER event. We still do,’ João Canning Clode announced via Facebook, ‘This was the most difficult decision we had to take in all these years. But the health and safety of our athletes, teams, local community, fans and volunteers is of vital importance. We move on…’

As a closing note, we all need perspective. Covid-19 is killing people daily and my heart aches for the distress and loss from this pandemic. Italy, as an example, have been hit so very hard and they have now entered Wartime Triage. This is truly catastrophic for all. But the government have stepped up to the plate and suspended payments on mortgages. When asked about the possibility of halting mortgage payments on Radio Anch’io, Laura Castelli, the deputy economy minister, said: ‘Yes, that will be the case, for individuals and households.’ I applaud that leadership and foresight. We can all learn a lesson from this action. (Article here)

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Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM2018 Race Summary and Images

The USM, Ultra Skymarathon Madeira – 55km of tough, challenging and mountain terrain to get over, the next race in the the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series.

The 2018 edition was arguably the greatest field ever assembled at the USM with a who’s who of elite mountain runners. Heading up the men’s field was last years winner, Jonathan Albon. For the ladies, it was difficult to pick a favourite byut gut instinct said that either Emelie Forsberg on the recent IAU World Trail Champion, Ragna Debats, was the favourite.

Weaving up and down mountains, around beaches, through dense undergrowth, up a riverbed and of course plenty of climbing and descending, the USM course is a unique one – It’s not an ordinary Skyrunning course!

Experienced runners start a little slower for this race and Jonathan Albon and Ragna Debats did just that, placing themselves away from the first three over the early sections of the course, there is a reason…

The USM has a brutal start, just 1km to warm up and then a climb of 1400m. Light rain followed the runners over the early miles until they broke through the cloud – on the other side, blue skies and a different day.

A section of via ferrata at around 6km was followed by a little descending and a final push for the highest point of the day. Dmitry Mityaev from Russia was the first to arrive no doubt feeling confident after a great result at Transvulcania recently. Marco De Gasperi and Franco Colle followed and then Andre Jonsson and Jon Albon.

Emelie Forsberg lead the ladies to the summit and Mira Rai pursued with Ragna Debats a little further back. Emelie was on a mission and looked strong, Mira unfortunately was suffering with stomach issues and eventually had to ease off opening the doorway for Ragna to pursue Emelie. Behind Hillary Gerardi, Ekaterina Mityaev, Nuria Picas and many others followed.

Descending over the summit, the cloud inversion was clearly visible – the landscape awe-inspiring. It was quite special to see so many mountains and trails all above the cloud.

Running the ridges and several more climbing sections, the front of the race didn’t really change until they returned back to the coast. Franco Colle had dropped and now the men’s race had Dmitry leading Marco and Jonathan in 3rd- they were all close though. A descent to the sea was followed by a steep short climb and then another descent which was followed by a section of riverbed littered with boulders. Albon made his move, the obstacle course world champion was in his element and he pulled away from the other two with ease. Marco looked in trouble though and eventually he would ease back out of the top 5. Andre Jonsson though was revived, he moved from 4th and eventually would take a great 2nd ahead of the Russian and then Pau Capell and Dani Jung placed 4th and 5th.

Emelie lead through the riverbed but Ragna was close. With a tough climb to go, it was anyones race. Behind, Nuria Picas had moved from way back into 3rd and looked very strong. The battle at the front was intense and eventually Ragna opened a 1-min gap to finish ahead of Emelie.  Nuria Picas would hold on for 3rd.

“USM is one of if not the hardest races out there, I loved it last year and I loved it this year.” said Albon. “It is a course made for me with my obstacle course racing background and it was nice to race today tactically and it alcove together!”

 

For Ragna, “Emelie pushed hard and really wanted the win, she never gave up trying and it was so tough to finally make a move. It is so pleasing to win against such incredible competition.”

RESULTS:

  1. Ragna Debats 6:46
  2. Emelie Forsberg 6:47
  3. Nuria Picas 6:58
  4. Hillary Gerardi 6:59
  5. Ekaterina Mityaeva 7:01

 

  1. Jonathan Albon 5:48
  2. Andre Jonsson 5:55
  3. Dmitry Mityaev 5:57
  4. Pau Capell 5:58
  5. Dani Jung 6:07

RACE IMAGES AVAILABLE HERE

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Santana Vertical Kilometer Results and Images #SVK2018 – Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM2018

The Santana Vertical Kilometer® (SVK), integrated in the Vertical Kilometer World Circuit, starts near the Vale da Lapa at an altitude of about 780m, in the heart of the Laurissilva forest, a Natural World Heritage Site of Mankind.

The entire course takes place within the Madeira Natural Park, inside protected ecosystems areas that are part of the Natura 2000 Network, an ecological network that has the objective to contribute for ensuring biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora in the European Union.

The final part of the route consists of a very technical and demanding climb that culminates in an emblematic point called Encumeada Alta (1785m), in the central mountain, from where you can enjoy superb panoramic landscapes on the highest peaks of the island.

The course has an extension of 4.8 kilometers with 1003m of positive gradient, where participants can contemplate the splendid and particular views of Madeira Island and feel what nature has of most beautiful.

The ladies race was won by Ruth Croft in 48:54 ahead of Elise Chabbey and Anna Frost, 49:07 and 52:56 respectively.

For the men, Romeu Gouveia beat the 2017 champion, Ferran Teixido, 42:30 to 42:40. Joan Marcelo was 3rd in 43:17.

RACE IMAGES ARE HERE

*****

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Ultra SkyMarathon™ Madeira 2015 #USM2015

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The Ultra SkyMarathon™ Madeira (#USM2015) will take place on the13th and 14th June 2015 on the beautiful island of Madeira, Portugal.

Continuing the growth and expansion of Skyrunning globally, for the first time, USM will see its integration in the Skyrunner® National Series Spain, Andorra & Portugal. A set of 6 ultra distance races, USM will be the only race that takes place in Portugal.

Comprising of three races of different distances, USM will have:

  • Ultra SkyMarathon® Madeira (USM 55 km 4000 m D +)
  • Santana Sky Race (SSR 21 km 1350m D +)
  • and the Mini Sky Race (MSR 13km 400m D +).

It’s going to prove to be an exciting weekend of racing as runners from all over the world will travel to Madeira, not only to race but also to soak up the beautiful scenery, talk with the locals and indulge in the excellent food that only Portugal can offer.

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Stevie Kremer needs no introduction to Skyrunning aficionados and her incredible 2014 and Skyrunner® World Series title has recently been followed up with a great start to 2015 with victory at the Buffalo Stampede in Australia. This lady from Crested Butte is going to take some beating.

Ricky Lightfoot is the 2014 IAU World Trail Champion, winner and course record holder for the ‘Otter’ in South Africa and victor and course record holder for the DoDo Trail in Mauritius. On his day, he is an incredible force in any fell, trail, mountain or Skyrunning event.

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Zaid Ait Malek burst onto the Skyrunning scene in 2013 with a top placing at Zegama-Aizkorri. His enthusiasm, big smile and huge presence are a great contribution to any race. His victory at Matterhorn Ultraks in 2014 was a highlight and for sure, he will be looking for a podium place in Madeira.

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Aritz Egea is a ‘Sky’ distance specialist and his ability to climb and descend with equal ability has seen him dominate races all over the world. A consistent top-10 finisher he will be looking to gain valuable points in Portugal.

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Alessandra Carlini really made a mark on the Skyrunning circuit in the past two years and she has proven, that despite living in the flat lands next to the sea, she has an ability to climb and descend with the best. Her performances improve when the races get longer, so, expect Alessandra to turn a few heads in the 55km race.

It won’t be easy running for Stevie, Ricky, Zaid, Aritz or Alessandra… a plethora of other top runners will toe the line looking for glory in Portugal:

  • Ester Alves (winner at this year’s Madeira Island Ultra Trail)
  • Nuno Silva (Winner, Falcotrail SkyMarathon 2014)
  • Luis Fernandes (winner at this year’s Madeira Island Ultra Trail)
  • Manuel Faria (Winner USM 2014)
  • Unai Santamaria (3rd USM 2014)

It’s not too late to enter any of the races in Madeira and a special discount is available if you enter before the end of April.

What you waiting for? Join some of the worlds best on the beautiful trails of Madeira.

Santana is a northern municipality of Madeira Island, renowned since 2011 as World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It is known by the typical A-thatched houses, symbol of Madeira and Portugal and offers a wide variety of surroundings such as the laurel forest, mountainous areas surrounding Pico Ruivo and São Jorge hills and the outstanding cliffs of the north of the island.

I will be at the event photographing and reporting on the action as it unfolds. You can follow on Facebook and Twitter – @talkultra

Promo video: https://vimeo.com/125025950

Race website HERE

Registration HERE

Race weekend program HERE