Things are bad. Period. Our Weekly Updates cover the overall net pain of revenue across our community falling off a cliff. This mean many people do not have the income to pay their bills or pay their employees – resulting in horrible personal choices and experiences. And the customers we serve are isolated at home – not able to go for group runs or weekend cycling meetups, much less compete head to head with others and themselves to meet their own personal goals.
But there are lights at the end of the tunnel (yes, they may be from the oncoming train of potentially bad things that can happen and the challenges of a comeback). While no one knows for sure when the country and individual states and communities will open back up, it is likely to be a rolling period of time and it is likely to happen over the coming couple of months. And no one knows what the right exact way to open up is, there are encouraging signs that point to the endurance industry taking a leadership role in opening our communities back up safely.
Here are the reasons we feel optimistic.
Yes, we know. A virtual race is not the same as a real race. BUT! it is better than nothing. And the amount of clever ideas that are being implemented are really impressive. We’ve been putting out weekly highlights of a few virtual races. Also, long term, virtual races may become a more integrated part of every race. We had that ideas a couple of years ago when we introduced our Virtual TXT service (which has become very popular now!). Also, RaceJoy has been a real joy for some races like the Ann Arbor Marathon. As another example, after the Crescent City Classic changed to a virtual run, they still had 1,000+ people sign up for their virtual run.
Fundraising & Donations
We highlighted some great fundraising ideas this past week, as well as the previous week. We are seeing an increased use of the GiveSignup Donation Websites and Donation Forms to help nonprofits lower their costs from other subscription based platforms.
The endurance community is made up of tens of thousands of microcommunities – races, clubs, stores, timers, nonprofits, race organizations, sponsors, volunteers and more. This diversity brings strength to our community, especially since passion drives much of the efforts to put on races. And the communities are spread across a huge country with amazing resources.
The diversity will result in creative ideas. The sense of community will help spread ideas that make sense and work. Just as races are learning how to adapt a virtual model today, races will learn how to put on safe events and allow the microcommunities putting on those races to regain momentum.
Many races have been around for years. They have participants that count on coming to those races each year. In a survey we did last year, we found that 95% of races are connected to a nonprofit – and participants will feel even more passionate and aware of a need to help others as one of the positive things that will come out of this virus. Participants want to support your events, and will help us all come back.
New Ways to Have Races
We have been doing a series of interviews the past two weeks with race directors timers, and industry professionals to collect the best ideas for how to put on races in the new normal that will come as our country opens back up. We have heard and collected some amazing ideas. We will be starting to share those ideas next week.
Our Communities Need Us
Let’s face it. Each local community has a desire to reopen and find their own new normal in safe ways. If we develop sound practices based on health guidelines, we have a chance to be one of the first ways that communities can regather – at safe social distances. And everyone is ready to get out of the house and talk and commune with others.
Local townships will likely be taking the lead in this. Our headquarters is in a small town of 16,000 people outside of Philadelphia – Moorestown, NJ. Our mayor is doing Facebook Live posts, and everyone is striving to stay connected. We are developing a virtual Scott Coffee race for June 6 that will extend over a week that people are starting to look forward to. It will benefit a fundraising effort led by the Rotary to provide food to families in need in our community. The connection is important to the town, and this 33rd year of the event will help bring us together.
Bringing Down the R Factor
We’ve talked about reading this article on March 6 that helped us understand the exponential impact of the virus. That was the first time we really understood “R” – the Reproductive Number. If R is above 1, then you will see growth. In early March, R was well over 1. With the social distancing implemented across most of the US, R is now well under 1 – hence the slowing rate of ICU admissions even in hot spots like New York City.
Reflecting on this, could any of us imagine just a month ago that all restaurants would be closed, that we would all be hunkered down at home. Or that we would all learn the magic 6 foot rule and that it was natural to wash our hands 20 times a day even when we are home alone?
This awareness, along with innovation (like the mask Marlise sewed for Bob and about 20 other friends) is going to continuing to keep R to a much lower number even when we start to remove restrictions.
Easier than Movies, Restaurants, Airlines and Vegas
We have some natural advantages to being one of the first activities to come back. Our events are outside. There are ways to spread people out with corral starts or low key non-timed events that stretch across a full day or week. We have ways of protecting volunteers, and minimize direct interactions. Compared with other things like sitting inside a movie theater or restaurant, or getting on an airplane or going to a Vegas casino – we just have natural space and ventilation advantage. Even a volunteer handing out a bib is simply safer than a waitress bringing a salad. So this means more people will feel more comfortable participating in our kinds of events.
The second important part of this is that there will be enormous resources put into opening up again. Our endurance community is tiny compared with these other huge economic engines. We were reading an article this past weekend where Blackstone has 4 Vegas Casinos – they had recently spent $4B on the Bellagio – much larger than the entire endurance community in one casino. There is a lot of money and power and political pressure that will be putting pressure on figuring out how to make testing more pervasive, how to ensure there is adequate PPE for social situations, how there will be apps that provide new ways to guide whether individuals should self isolate or not.
Flattened Curve Makes Healthcare Manageable
While the death tolls are still horrendous, there is good news that the social distancing and the lowering of the R factor has gotten us over the peak even in New York City. As we regain our footing and increase the supply of PPE, ventilators, improve procedures for healthcare of virus patients, increase the availability, speed and cost effectiveness of testing, treatments and eventually vaccines the healthcare system will be better able to take care of the people who are infected and affected the most.
Humans Are Adaptable
Can you imagine wearing masks would be normal when you woke up on March 6? Or transforming shoe and automobile plants to make more PPE and ventilators? Or transferring so much R&D to find better ways to do treatments and testing and vaccines? It is amazing how we have all adapted over the past month. And it is amazing the massive resources our creative world are putting into incrementally making the situation better and better over the coming months.
Races may not be the same for a while. Volunteers may be wearing masks and gloves, and participants may go off in corral waves of 10 at a time, but we will adapt and find creative ways forward. Humans always have and always will.