The government announced that Singapore will exit the circuit breaker measure period on 1 June in three phases. In Phase 1, which will be in force for at least four weeks, sports and recreation facilities will remain closed. Exercising outdoors remains allowed with members of the same household. Phase 2 will see the reopening of sports, recreation and outdoor activities; this phase will be around for a few months. Phase 3 then kicks in as the “new normal period until a vaccine becomes available". In this phase, social gatherings and events will resume, with a limit on crowd sizes.
Let us digest what the above phases means if you are a recreational runner who runs outdoors regularly, visits your local gym for your strength and conditioning workouts and sets an annual goal of participating in one or two local run events. In short, a lot! In terms of timing perspectives, you can only exercise outdoors for now. The earliest timing that your gym can reopen would be in July; this phase may last a couple of months. Then, by the time Singapore enters into Phase 3, it could perhaps be towards the end of 2020, or even cross into 2021. Events that may be allowed in Phase 3 would have lots of health and safety terms and conditions attached to them.
At this moment, we do not know how a mass participation running event would like when they are allowed again. What we can safely guess is that they will not return in the same form that you may have been used to pre-covid-19 era. There has been lots of online discussion a running event may look like in this “new normal”.
Earlier this month, Chris Robb, Founder and CEO of Mass Participation World, conducted “The New Operational Normal Masterclass” as part of his webinar series. Together with guests Mark Nishi from Chicago Event Management, organisers of the Chicago Marathon, and Hugh Singe, Managing Director of Event Health Management and Medical Director of Singapore Marathon, they explored the key consideration points in organising “new normal” running events. While the discussion centred around the perspectives of event organisers, they would have direct impacts for runners taking part in such events.
Let us look at some of the macro level takeaways discussed, adapted to Singapore’s situation:
- Events are of low priority for the authorities. There are more urgent issues to address for now.
- When it is time to bring events back on the calendar, collaboration becomes even more important than in the past and will involve the various stakeholders - government agencies, medical teams, volunteers, et cetera - early in the conversation.
- Medical support - especially current frontliners - would have had fatigue from the current situation, and may not have the resource bandwidth to support additional events.
- Testing of participants may be considered, but implementation challenges and legal issues may arise.
- Duty of care and liability to all those at events grounds - staff, participants, volunteers, spectators, suppliers - can be complex.
- Timeline to plan and execute will be longer as multiple scenarios will need to be planned out
- Overall event budgets may increase.
Only recently, some of the major marathons are revising their plans due to continuing uncertainties surrounding COVID-19. Tokyo Marathon 2020 has been cancelled; the deferral date selection for 2021 has now been postponed from mid-May to “within July”. London Marathon - postponed from last month to October - recently issued an announcement that they will make an update of the event status on 21 June.
Certainly, there are more questions than answers for now. How would “new normal” event procedures look like? Would event prices increase? Would there be fewer events? Would there be limited entries per event? Can your safety be assured?
There is unfortunately no crystal ball to provide ready answers. In Singapore, we can safely assume that it will be many months from now before the first mass participation sports event comes back to life. Event operations procedures will be robustly discussed in the meantime to ensure everyone’s health and safety. Let us hope we can be at the start line of our favourite running events soon.