Coronavirus Update for 2020 GYAS Races
Over the past two weeks, unprecedented measures have been taken in the United States and nearly every other country in the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. Just within the past few days in the United States, March Madness, the NBA, the NHL, Broadway shows, and numerous schools and universities have been closed down. In the world of marathons, the Tokyo Marathon was cancelled for non-elite runners, Paris, Seoul, and Rome cancelled their marathons, the New York City Half Marathon was cancelled, and America's most famous marathon, the Boston Marathon that was just weeks away, will be postponed to the fall.
The marathon I was most looking forward to was the London Marathon because there was to be an epic duel between Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, the two fastest marathon runners ever. Maybe one of them would flirt with a sub two. It was Ali-Frazier all over again. London was set for April, but now it's been cancelled till October. This is as real as it gets. It totally sucks.
So, how about the Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series (GYAS) races? Our eight races are scheduled within a 10 day time period from July 16 to July 26. Unlike the mass event marathons that have thousands and thousands of runners, the GYAS races are small. Unlike traveling with or meeting with your community at a mass marathon event, the GYAS is a community of its own. I have always firmly believed that sports can make the world a better place. I still believe this. Thus, I am sending out this notice for the 2020 race season for the GYAS.
As of this writing on March 14, 2020, the races are on. We will stay with our schedule of events as planned.
Here is my rationale for this current decision:
Small Race Size
The GYAS races are held on US Forest Service land. Therefore, we must abide by USFS regulations and one of those regs is limiting each race to 200 participants. We are a niche race series. We are not a mass, urban race with thousands and thousands of runners. This greatly reduces the risk that exists compared to the large marathons that have been cancelled around the world.
No Enclosed Areas
We have no meetings, gatherings, groupings, etc... in any enclosed areas. Our race registration is outdoors. We don't have an expo because we're a niche race series. Thus, our athletes will never be cramped together in a single room for any reason. The only time this will occur is on the bus ride to the staging area and starting line and that's only for the two marathons.
Personal Space a.k.a 'Social Distancing'
I'm sure everyone has seen photos of the start of the New York City Marathon on the Verrazano Bridge and other large marathons. At the starting line, the runners are packed in like sardines in a can. This will not happen at a GYAS event. In addition, our runners quickly become disbursed.
Summer Time in Montana
Until just today, Montana was one of three or four states that had zero cases of the virus. This has changed as four people have been diagnosed. Even before this, our state health authorities and our Governor was on top of the crisis. They have their A game on and I am 100 percent confident that they will deal with any issue rapidly and professionally. Also for what it's worth, it will be the middle of summer when the GYAS races are held. Even in Montana it gets hot in the summer and health officials say that viruses tend to die out in the heat of summer. Though this particular virus might prove to be different (that's still unknown), flu viruses do not tend to survive summer heat. We are praying that this will be the case for this virus.
Of course, my 'rationale' at this time may be overruled by an official decision from above or a change in the current situation. Some of the reasons that the races may be cancelled in the future would include:
The State of Montana or the US Forest Service could cancel all sporting events on public land. Basically, our permits could be rescinded.
A Spike in Cases
The number of cases could continue to grow with no end in sight. Due to this, I may be advised by health officials far, far smarter than me that it would be a bad idea to host the races.
My Call on Runners' Safety
As the race director, I may judge that holding the races will be harmful to participating athletes. The safety of our athletes, whether it is from grizzly bears or flu viruses, is our number one priority. We will not put anyone in harm's way. You're a member of our community.
We had a very good early bird signup period for our 2020 races (January 1 to 3). We have had a good first 14 days of regular online signup (March 1 to the present). I have high expectations that the Madison Marathon will once again be a sold out race and the Big Sky Marathon will be not far behind. We are gaining ground as a race series and we are looking forward to a superb racing season.
However, this could all be impacted by the coronavirus so we need to make some decisions regarding cancellations, deferments, and refunds. Since this is a moving target, I will be making one announcement now and other decisions as summer gets closer.
The reason many races, including the GYAS, do not offer refunds for athletes who want/need to cancel is that there are numerous costs that must be paid out up front and well before race day(s). Handing out refunds or even deferments to the following year makes for unprofitable races. That's the basic business reality of managing a race series.
So in this regard, our first announcement is this: The races are on. We fully intend to host all eight events. However, anyone who has already signed up for a GYAS 2020 race that wants to cancel may do so and receive a full refund of their entry fee (minus online signup fees) if they make their cancellation request prior to March 31, 2020. This gives you two weeks to consider your options. It gives us a better sense of how many runners we will have this summer. After March 31, this refund will no longer be available.
The GYAS will begin to incur costs in April and definitely in May. At that time, our ability to give refunds will be much more limited. If you're not sure what to do now, you are going to have to wait until after March 31 to learn of any new refund policy. I cannot tell you now whether this will be a full, partial, or zero refund or if deferring to 2021 will be offered. Again, this is the reality of hosting a multi-event race series in the remote mountains of Montana. There are a lot of moving parts and each part has a cost. I need to manage this carefully.
So to repeat: If you have already signed up and want to cancel your registration, you can do so and receive a full refund of your entry fee. For example, if you registered for the Madison Marathon and paid $90 plus registration fees, you will be credited $90. This must occur before March 31. After March 31, this will no longer be offered. All you need to do is send me an email and make this request.
Of course, I hope you will hang tough and wait it out with us. We are going to hang tough. We are four months away from our first race. This health crisis will pass even if it might get worse over the short term. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.
Stay Happy, HEALTHY, and Always Keep Running Forward and remember to wash your hands at least a gazillion times a day.