On the Road AgainDavid Yon, October 13, 2020
The Gulf Winds Triathletes, led by Bill and Kelli Dillon, Mike Weyant and Charlie Johnson, successfully organized and produced the 2020 St. Marks Duathlon. The Du starts with a 5K (3.1 mile) run, followed by a 20K (12.4 mile) bike ride and then finishing with a 2.5K (1.6 mile) run. There is a transition area where the bikes are “racked” while the athletes are running. It gives race organizers a lot to think about while implementing safe practices to reduce or hopefully eliminate the spread of COVID-19 during the race.
The race was initially scheduled for the 22nd of March 2020 but became one of the first victims of the COVID – 19 pandemic. While no one in St. Marks ever told Bill Dillon “no” to contesting the event then, the representatives of the City of St. Marks did make it clear “they strongly preferred we didn’t.” His first survey of GWTC leaders produced a similar if not stronger response. It was still early in the pandemic and there were few guidelines to follow. So, the race was postponed to October 11, with an acknowledgement that it may not happen then either.
In a world where everything is decisively either red or blue, the GWTC Triathletes found a better approach to navigate the landmines. Bill Dillon became the perfect ambassador to implement the approach. Step one was to listen to the concerns of those opposed to allowing the race to go forward. Beyond listening, he also searched for solutions. A set of best practices was evolving based on the experience and review of other groups, such as the USA Triathlon (USAT).
The Gulf Winds Triathletes developed and executed a well-designed strategy using best practices designed to safeguard the health and safety of participants and communities impacted by the event. Bill Dillon concisely laid out a strategy for presenting this plan to those who needed comfort this could work.
Included in the list of special practices used by the St. Marks Duathlon were:
- taking all participants’ temperature.
- developing and requiring a very specific disclosure and waiver.
- requiring participants to complete a medical questionnaire.
- implementing a wave start where each wave was limited to 5 athletes.
- starting each wave 30 seconds after the previous one.
- encouraging social distancing and to the extent possible mandating it before, during and after the race
- capping the race at 100 participants. There were only 62 finishers.
- identifying the concerns of the city of Saint Marks and the board of Gulf Winds Track Club and addressing best possible ways to address the concern
- canceled post race awards ceremony and celebration.
The success of the St Marks Duathlon does not mean the fight with COVID-19 is over or that the deadly disease can be ignored. But it does suggest that we can find ways to continue to do the things we enjoy doing, especially when we can rationally discuss our differences.