RUNNING EVENTS DURING COVID-19 - Recent events in South East England

RUNNING EVENTS DURING COVID-19 - Recent events in South East England


Talking to Barry from Sporting Events UK

Previously we’ve looked at how COVID-safe events have begun taking place across the pond in the US. Now we can see them being organised much closer to home, successfully as some of the first to take place in the UK in South East England by Sporting Events UK.

We have spoken to Barry from Sporting Events UK, who gives us some insight into how he achieved a number of Covid-secure events, with more in the pipeline! We spoke to him about the challenges and successes which come when staging an event during the current global climate, and through his answers we can begin to build a clearer picture of how these events feel for both organisers and participants.‍

The key take-aways are:

1. Invest big and early in inspiring consumer confidence

2. Be creative in the communication of your safety measures

3. Start small and trial what methods work best for your events

Read in detail about Barry and his events in our Q & A below


Q. “How many events have you successfully hosted since March, with how many participants?”

Sporting Events UK has now hosted 2 successful events in August 2020: Smugglers 10k at Minnis Bay Beach in Kent with 210 finishers, and University of Kent Canterbury 10K with just over 100 finishers. 

These were the first races to take place in the South East of England after being one of 4 to receive permits from Run Britain, as races were only allowed to take place from the 1st of August.  

The ‘no show’ rate for races is usually around 10-20%, but on this occasion it was more around 40-50%, likely due to being one of the first live races post lockdown. The Smugglers 10k was a race which had been postponed from its original date in March, where participants had been carried over if they could make the new date (no new entries could be made). University of Kent Canterbury 10k was only at the beginning of its promotion before lockdown started, so when we decided to go ahead entries had almost neared capacity anyway. 


Q. “How did you inspire confidence in your participants from the outset?”

Firstly, we increased our presence on social media by showing how we maintain distance and how we are contact free. Alongside this, we publicised our covid-safety measures in our comms to participants and kept them at the forefront of our events profiles. 

These measures include pre-event covid screenings, taking staff temperatures, rolling start times to allow for social distancing and limiting water stations. 

Finally, we got photos and videos to showcase the above, which is great for really illustrating to future participants how we implement safety measures and what an event day will look like.


Q. “Did your race budget change much, and if so what was it due to?”

Longer staff hours: Due to the race timings staff had to be kept for longer to facilitate the rolling start times and cleaning purposes.

Increased First Aid: We needed a COVID isolation area incase anyone showed signs of covid-positive.

Hand washing stations: These were branded to our company Sporting Events UK so atleast they looked good! 

Less water stations: We encouraged people to bring their own drinking water, particularly as it was only a 10k so there was less need to host water stations throughout the race.    

Temperature checking: We needed equipment to check all staff working on the day.

Q: “‍‍What were the main event logistics that you introduced or that changed?”

Pre-event check-in process with socially distanced queuing: Upon arrival, participants queue in a line with cones which space them 10ft apart and everyone must wear a mask before the race.

Check in then includes:

1. Runners use anti-bacterial hand wash

2. Individual tickets are scanned

3. Bib number is found and scanned

Waved rolling starts: We ask runners to self stage based on their estimated time with the fastest leaving first. Runners take their position 5 minutes before the start and are released in waves of 30, every 2 minutes. This limits groups of people running together and passing. This worked really well, loads of people preferred it as opposed to the often race start scrum!  

Predicted times can be taken through eventrac upon entry.

Q. “What were the biggest challenges you faced getting the event off the ground?”

Prior to the event our inbox was crazy, we had about 30-40x the usual volume of queries being asked by participants. The questions ranged from ‘Is the race still going ahead?’ to ‘Can you inspire some confidence to make me feel more comfortable attending’. A lot of people aren’t aware of the most recent government advice, so we tried to get back to as many as possible to make sure it was clear that we were definitely going ahead, and in the safest way possible. 

The paperwork was much heavier than usual due to having to provide risk assessments, event management plans and procedural documents for our local council to ensure we could go ahead. Our 10k on the seafront needed planning to manage the general public who would be around that day too as the route was not completely closed off. 

Due to our good organising reputation the council was very easy to work with to get our event signed off. 

Q. “What has the participant response been like? What comes next?”

Reviews have been incredible, some people have even said they have felt the safest since lockdown started! The demographic of people taking part didn’t really change either which was good, we even had some racers in their 70’s take part. 

We have several events lined up for September, which have capacity of between 300-500 depending on venue. Entries are coming in pretty steadily and it's easier for us to market these with footage from our previous events to show how we’re introducing safety measures. 

For distances larger than a 10k such as a half marathon we will introduce water stations again, but they will still be limited to only one along the course in a more spread out format to make it manageable with social distancing and reduce contact. 

Staged a Covid-secure event?

Looking to help out other organisers? We are looking for any event organisers who have successfully staged an event in the current climate to feature in our newsletters and social feeds. Simply reach out to to get involved.