Why race directors shouldn’t feel bad when canceling their events for COVID-19

The recent coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19, has disrupted life as we know it, and at the moment it often feels confusing and frustrating about how to react. One of the things that has happened over the past week are many running events being cancelled, alongside other major sporting events. This can be a very frustrating and stressful thing for people who have been looking forward to their event, and can result in some backlash. However, as a race director myself, I wanted to share my perspective on why RD’s shouldn’t feel bad if they need to cancel their event.

Let’s start off with the squishy stuff. Being a race director is stressful and hard work. You’re pouring yourself into an event that you hope brings people joy and happiness. Nothing makes an RD happier than when they see people smiling as they cross the finish line. You can see the everyday stress of life melt away as you send people off into the woods to run free. It’s a truly wonderful thing.

The last thing that any race director wants to do is put people at risk. No race director wants to send out an email after an event to let people know that something might have happened at the event that would put them in danger. There’s not a single RD that I know who would want to send out an email informing folks that they may have been exposed to a sickness. That worry taints everything about the event, and it’s the opposite of why RD’s do what they do.

But apart from “feelings” and “worry”, let’s look at a couple of practical issues. Many people don’t realize just how difficult it is to maintain any type of cleanliness and sanitization in a race environment. First off, the aid station tables are havens for germs and bacteria. Many races have gone to single-serving cups of food items which helps a lot, but it’s not foolproof. I’ve been to more than one aid station where runners will grab a small cup of food, bring it to their mouth and dump it in, and then put the cup back down on the table to be re-used. The volunteers might not even notice this and think it’s an empty cup waiting to be filled.

Volunteers should also be wearing gloves when dealing with food as much as possible, but this doesn’t prevent spreading through coughs and sneezing. Plus, volunteers are often called upon to help runners with their equipment, packs, and physical needs, and can end up touching all manner of bodily fluids.

Then there’s the actual runners themselves, who are fond of blowing snot rockets, end up with runny noses and coughs from exertion, and generally spread their bacteria all over their vicinity. It’s simply the nature of being active and exerting oneself. The exposure is less on a longer race course where people are spread out, but in shorter, more compact races, many runners are always in a crowd of people.

Even despite precautions, it’s very common for RD’s to get sick a few days after an event with some type of virus. They’ve depleted their immune system through stress, and just exposed themselves to a lot of things. But it’s simply a part of the experience for many, and we understand the nature of how this works.

Now that I’ve said a lot of gross stuff, let me say one very important thing.

For the most part this is all fine.

I’m not a doctor, but I believe and have been taught that human beings are amazing creatures with a developed immune system that takes care of the majority of what we encounter. For the majority of people, it’s not the end of the world when we encounter common germs and other bacteria. We have the capability to fight them off. That’s because our immune systems have learned over our lifetimes how to fight off the majority of things that we’ve encountered. COVID-19 is new. There’s a reason it’s called a “novel” virus, because we’ve never seen it before.

Until we can catch up and figure out how to vaccinate and better treat COVID-19, we’re in a very vulnerable spot as a species. We’re at an inflection point where we need to allow our bodies, and science, to develop the defenses that we need to combat this new threat. But that takes time. The only way to stop our medical system from getting overrun is to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible, so that we can catch up. Practicing social distancing, staying away from large gatherings, and limiting where we go, for a couple of weeks is HUGE to stopping the mass spread of the illness.

That’s why it’s OK that races have to be postponed, and race directors shouldn’t feel bad about that. None of this running and racing stuff is SO important that it’s worth risking someone’s health over. We’re all doing this because we have a passion for it (trust me RD’s don’t make much of money, if any). So, let’s cut race directors some slack and let them make the right choices for the time in which we’re living. In a few weeks things will start going back to normal and life will continue on. There’s lots more races to run, so let’s make sure we all get to the start line together.

Movie Review: Knives Out

On Saturday we had a free evening, so we rented Knives Out. I’ve always been a fan of classic mysteries, and this one appeared to be in the vein of a good Agatha Christie. The plot revolves around the untimely death of Harlan Thrombey, a rich novelist, and the investigation into his dysfunctional family. When Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously hired to ferret out the truth, the ride begins.

I’ll keep this review brief, and spoiler free, as any mystery should be.

The all-star cast was amazing, and Daniel Craig as detective Blanc created a feeling that we were in a classic Hercule Poirot setting. He played the part of the eccentric, but brilliant investigator wonderfully, giving homage to the greats. The family was played by wonderful actors such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Don Johnson, all who brought life to characters that you both wanted to hate, yet pity.

The film is set in modern day, so it’s not a classic period piece, but that doesn’t distract much from the main setting, an old mansion. This setting is the typical one for a mystery like this, and they play with the space beautifully. When the plot requires a visit to the more modern world it can be a bit jarring, but soon enough you’re back to where you should be, the Thrombey mansion.

There’s not much to say without giving up clues, so I’ll simply say that this was well worth the rental. I appreciated the attention to details to keep the movie true to it’s roots as much as possible, yet give everything a new twist. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday evening.

TV Review: Doctor Who 12th Season

I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since the relaunch, and it’s been wonderful to watch all of these different actors put their spin on the character. It’s one of the really cool parts about having a main character that “regenerates” into someone new, but still familiar.

I was really excited about last season’s take on the doctor with Jodie Whittaker, being the first Doctor to regenerate into a woman.  The eleventh season gave her a chance to express herself and show off what she wanted to do with the character. I was excited to see this continue in season 12.


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Thinking about “stuff”

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about material things. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I think a lot of it has to do with my changing perspective on materialism. This past week I happened to visit a Wal-Mart for something I needed. Wal-Mart (at least in America) is a bastion of consumerism and materialism gone wild. Everywhere you look are signs advertising the lowest prices on things that you often didn’t even know that you needed. The aisles are filled with bins and pallets of random things that scream, “you need me!”, despite being of questionable quality. Even when you look at electronics, the aisles were filled with ultra-cheap TV’s that are subsidized by systems of data collection that monitor what you watch so that you can be advertised to more effectively.

Years ago I was right on board with a lot of this. Before my divorce, our house was FILLED with more things than you can imagine. Not in a hoarder way, but simply full. We didn’t think twice about buying whatever we wanted (not going to get into the credit card debt issue…), and in many ways we used it as a way to make ourselves feel better. When I look around my house now, the number of those things that still remain is so small, it’s not even funny.

I’ve started to think more about quality. Not just quality of goods, but quality of life. I’m not against having things, and I would never suggest that minimalism is a lifestyle I could ever adopt. However, I’ve been trying to be more and more intentional about the things I purchase, and making sure that they actually are meant to improve the quality of life that I’m trying to live. That means that purchasing outdoor gear (for example) is money well spent, as being outside and exploring has become a major part of who I am and what I want to be about. The things that I buy, I want to mean something to how I’m living my life. Not just something random that makes me feel good.

That also brings up the other side of quality. I’ve really started to appreciate good quality things, and understand the benefit of making something really good last a lot longer. Especially in the world of electronics, it’s so easy to buy cheap garbage that is outdated and doesn’t work for more than a year. Back in 2011 I invested in a good quality desktop computer (iMac), and then a few years ago upgraded it to an SSD. I’m STILL using this machine as my daily driver 9 years later. Sure it cost me a lot of money back when I bought it, but that’s money that I haven’t had to spend again in 11 years. It’s finally getting time where I’m outpacing what this machine can do, and once again I’ll look to make a long-term investment, instead of a short-term disposable one.

As I spend weekends continuing to purge old stuff that we don’t need, I look forward to a world where maybe we tone down our consumerism just a bit. We don’t need to stop buying things, but maybe we can do it with a bit more thought, intention, and eye towards longevity.

Brewery Review: Boathouse Brewpub

Of course when traveling I need to sample the local brewery scene. Ely, MN has a nice little brewery right on the main drag that is also a brewpub. Our first night in town we hit there for supper, and to try the local brews.

Since they had 7 beers on tap, and their flights were 4 beers each, I got two flights so I could try everything. I posted a picture of it on social media, but didn’t realize right away the perspective made it look like I had 8 FULL pint mugs of beer in front of me. It ended up being a funny accident as I then had to clarify that, no, these were flight sized mugs.

In terms of the beer, I was very impressed at the quality. In the flight, I didn’t detect any overt brewing flaws, and almost everything tasted to style. A couple beers of note: The altbier was really well done, and actually nailed the style really well. This isn’t a common style to find in pubs, since it has a slight earthy and peaty character. However, on a cold winter night it tastes really great.

I also really enjoyed the Blueberry Blonde. The aroma nailed the blueberry scent, and that really helped to create the perception of a blueberry flavor in the beer overall. Blueberry is a hard one to put in a beer, but this one was successful. This was all helped along by a scoop of actual blueberries floating in the beer. It was also entertaining to watch them float and sink on the carbonation bubbles.

A couple beers that were just OK for me were the milk stout, which was thinner than I like my stouts. It was bordering on porter territory, but still tasty. The bourbon barrel porter also lacked in the barrel age flavor, but it was still a decent beer.

The food was also decent for pub food, and it was a great way to kick off our trip. Certainly worth a stop if you’re in this neck of thee woods.