US Trail Running Conference Webinar Focuses on a Safe Return to Trail Racing

Industry experts deliver compelling arguments that COVID transmission rates are low on the trails

The seventh webinar in a nine-webinar series produced by the US Trail Running Conference and presented by the leading trail registration platform UltraSignup, was hosted Thursday, July 22. The session subject for this latest session was: Post COVID-era racing – What’s changed, what have we learned, and where do we go from here? The session content was delivered by three leading medical experts who as well as being doctors are also engaged as medical directors or advisers for trail races. Active at Altitude, organizers of the US Trail Running Conference and the webinar series, reported nearly 90 race directors and event organizers registered for the webinar, representing more than 30 states, as well as Canada, Macedonia, Portugal, and Romania. The webinar series is held in partnership with the American Trail Running Association, and Trail Runner magazine.

The three panelists were Tracy Høeg, MD, PhD. Sports Medicine physician, PhD in Epidemiology, and Associate Researcher at UC Davis, Andy Pasternack, WSER medical team, MD, MPH, and John  Anderson, Medical Director, Broken Arrow & head of ITRA Medical and Safety Committee.

Høeg shared four critical factors that have changed since earlier in 2021. “We now have vaccines that are safe and very effective. Although I consider that Covid may not be eradicated, it may become a mild upper respiratory infection. We also have more data on outdoor transmission, we know that wearing a mask while running achieves nothing and is bad for the environment, and that small businesses in the sport suffered during the pandemic when they didn’t need to.” Høeg added that research has shown that the risk of contracting COVID-19 by participating in an outdoor endurance running event is less than 1-2 in a million, and also shared useful data on vaccine risks for particular groups. She concluded by suggesting that “racing can essentially return to normal, paying attention to indoor portions of race organization and travel risks for unvaccinated runners, and the importance of maintaining good public health standards at aid stations.”

Pasternak covered an overview on vaccines and also shared that “it’s amazing how much has morphed since January because of vaccines. We wanted to get Western States back as normal as possible…many iterations were considered, howe ver were not found to be necessary. The board jumped on requiring vaccinations for all volunteers….with an aim to have as many runners as possible cross the line safely.” He added that they were very excited at the high levels of vaccination among runners at both the training runs and the race itself – more than 90 percent were fully vaccinated. Some international runners were also arriving ahead of the race so they could get vaccinated in the US, where this was more difficult in some cases in their home countries.

Anderson, as the final presenter, stressed that , “While there is a lower risk of COVID transmission in an outdoor race, it is important to consider all aspects of the race 
environment.” He also suggested that it was prudent to understand conditions local to the race in terms of current infection patterns and vaccination rates for appropriate COVID mitigation planning by race organizers. He also recommended thinking about “is there a way that your event can have a positive impact on the community as a whole. Trail and ultrarunning has a good track record of giving back to local communities. One idea is to possibly have medical staff on hand at a race to answer questions that people have, then providing reliable, credible education to the community if needed.”

“It is a challenging time for everyone including race directors and trail runners as COVID is not yet in the rearview mirror” said Nancy Hobbs, Executive Director of American Trail Running Association. “However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as more individuals are vaccinated and adhere to guidelines from event directors committed to staging safe and successful events.”

Each webinar is presented by industry leaders in their respective fields, and offers 
information that can boost a race director’s knowledge and afford insight into innovative practices to implement at their events. Every participant receives a best practices 
resource document after each webinar that details key actionable items, while there will be an opportunity to follow up on deliverables through an online forum, and in-person or 
remotely at the 2021 US Trail Running Conference to be held October 27-30, in
Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The eighth webinar in the series is scheduled for August 19, at 11.00 am MDT, and is 
focused on sponsor partnerships and revenue. Expert panelists include Sara Berry, Director Global Partnerships at Spartan, and Susan Kendrick, Director of Brand Relationships at UltraSignup. Race directors, event organizers and anyone interested in attending can register for the session as a stand-alone, or for the complete series at a discounted rate. The recordings of the first six webinar sessions will also be available for anyone that registers for the complete series.

More info:

For details on the webinar series and to register, go to

Contact Event Director, Terry Chiplin for further information,, or 303-304-9159

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