Social distancing will apply as long as COVID-19 is an issue.

So when will races come back, and what are they going to look like? Good questions, both! The answer to the first question, is, it depends on when the COVID cases are diminished enough so that we’ll be able to resume some of the things we used to do that involved being near other people.

That could be as early as January 2021, or as late as December 2021.

Looking at the local scene, Bill Schroeder, who has been putting on Vern’s No-Frills 5Ks for years, submitted a 10-step protocol (below) to Williamson County. Although Williamson County approved his race protocol, Schroeder, a 50-state marathoner, remains hesitant to stage any Vern’s No-Frills 5Ks for the time being.

  1. Masks will be required while in your vehicle getting your temperature check. This applies to everyone in your vehicle.  The exception to this are any children under the age of 2 per CDC recommendations.  They are also required from when you are out of your vehicle no matter where you are in the park.  Once you start running/walking after crossing the starting line then you may take it off.  They are required again once you leave the finish chute and back inside your vehicle.  This is strictly mandatory.  If you are uncomfortable with this, then this is not the race for you to attend.
  2. Temperature checks will be performed while in your vehicle about 100 yards into the park. If anyone in the vehicle is determined to have a temperature higher than 99.6, then everyone in the vehicle will be required to leave the park, no exceptions.  Again, while your temperature is being taken, everyone in the vehicle will be required to wear a mask to protect the medical staff.  Once cleared, follow the signs for parking.
  3. Even while wearing masks, everyone must do their part to maintain at least 6 feet social distancing from anyone who they do not live with.  Studies and contact tracing have shown that even outdoors, being close to someone raises the risk of infection.  This raises the saturation of infectious particles, so stay apart and keep moving.  This especially includes any photos taken while at Berry Springs Park & Preserve.  Obviously, this means there shouldn’t be any high-fiving, hugging, fist bumps, handshakes, no touching, but plenty of clapping, whistling, and words of encouragement from a distance.
  4. This race will be considered a test to see if it is possible to participate in walking/running events and still comply with CDC, local, state, and federal guidelines. Take ownership in calling out others who jeopardize this test that will cause future events to be more stringent or even cancelled.
  5. Staggered starting time. You can arrive as early as 6:45am and start between 7-9am.  Only 4-6 individuals will start at a time.
  6. Registration will be on-line only.
  7. Course will be two loops with everyone running in the same direction and will even take you by the Vern Cantwell memorial tree. Half of the course is on gravel, dirt, and cinders unlike the typical course that is smooth concrete.
  8. Upon finishing and prior to exiting the finish chute you must put your mask back on. You should exit the park as soon as possible to allow for others to enter the park as there will be a limit of 100 people allowed in the park.  Don’t loiter around the finish line.  ALWAYS maintain social distancing especially while taking photos because social media can cause cancellation of future events and not just Vern’s.
  9. Refreshments will not be provided, so plan accordingly as even morning temperatures in Texas can be warm and humid in July. Please bring your own water.
  10. The race will be timed; however, we are still developing a safe and easy plan that is logistically possible.

Schroeder’s 10-step guidelines can serve as an excellent document for those interested in staging a 5K in the near future, but compliance is the key.

“My reason for not putting on the race is that I don’t believe people will follow the rules/guidelines and there isn’t anything I could do about it, except maybe ban them from all GRC races,“ said Schroeder. “I know people are still meeting to go for runs in groups larger than the recommended 10 and quote, say they are social distancing, but then gather together for group photos or sitting around a table and eating/chatting.”

“Who knows, resurgence or not, what social distancing guidelines are going to be?” says Rich Harshbarger, chief executive of Running USA, an industry trade group.

“Let alone the emotional fog of, ‘Do I really want to get in a corral with 50 people? Do I want to get in a race with 10,000 people?’ We don’t know. When we come through this — and I don’t know when that is, a year? Maybe two years? — I do think the sport will be strong. I do think there will be demand to do this. I think there will be new guidelines and corral set-ups. But history shows us that runners are resilient.”

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