(10-Jul) -- With all of the big, classic American summer road races cancelled or switched to virtual runs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 44th annual News-Herald Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile in Painesville, Ohio, is bucking the trend and will go forward as an in-person event on Sunday. The race, first held in 1977, has developed a detailed plan to reduce COVID infection risk and has received approval from the Lake County General Health District to go forward.
"We feel really comfortable with the setup and how we're going to do things," race organizer Bill Dennison told the News-Herald newspaper in nearby Willoughby, Ohio, about four miles northeast of Cleveland.
The race will use small waves of 25 runners spaced out every two minutes to reduce runner density on the course, and the overall order of finish will be scored on net time, the time it takes each runner to complete the course from when they cross the start line to when they cross the finish line (sometimes called "chip time"). As runners in each wave wait to start, they must maintain a six-foot distance from their competitors in all directions. Organizers used the same spacing technique in their July 4th race, the Captains Grand Slam 5-K, which had 381 entries (see photo here: https://bit.ly/300tZwT).
Other safeguards will be put in place, according to the official race instructions, including the following:
- Participants must be symptom-free of illness for 14 days before Sunday; symptomatic individuals MUST stay at home.
- Participants traveling to the event are recommended to travel alone or with members of immediate family, only.
- Hand sanitizer stations will be provided at the start and finish areas.
- Bottled water will be available only at the finish line; there will be no water stops on the course, and organizers recommend runners carry their own water.
- Spitting, "snotting," or projecting any bodily fluid before, during or after event is prohibited.
- All participants must avoid any physical contact with other participants which includes high fives, fist bumps, huddles, or other close contact before, during, or after the event.
- During the competition, participants must abide by the six-foot mandated social-distancing regulations when passing other participants.
Also, spectators are not permitted on the course at the start or finish lines or in parking areas. Runners must disburse quickly after finishing, and there will be no awards ceremony (award winners will be contacted via e-mail, and awards can be picked up later at a local running store).
The race isn't a large event. Over the last three editions, the finisher counts have been 383 (2019), 375 (2018) and 444 (2017). Also, the race is offering a virtual option for runners who are not comfortable coming to the event in person.
The event has a history of fast times. The men's course record is 23:16 by Kenya's Hillary Too set in 2016, while the women's course record is 26:19 by seven-time winner Jessica Odorcic (née Kuhr) from 2012. Odorcic confirmed to Race Results Weekly that she is not running this year; she is recovering from a cycling accident.
In-person road races in the United States are mostly shut down due to the pandemic. All of the important summer races, like the New Balance Falmouth Road Race, Quad-City Times Bix 7, Steamboat Classic 4-Mile, TD Beach to Beacon 10-K, and Wharf to Wharf Race 6-Mile, have all been cancelled, or will only be held as virtual races. According to the Race Results Weekly event calendar, there is only one noteworthy in-person road race still scheduled for July in the United States: the Loudoun Street Mile in Winchester, Virginia, slated for July 25. Like the Johnnycake Jog that event will also be run in waves (50 runners in each wave, according to the event website).