Live road racing returns with the Loveland Liberty 5K on Fourth of July
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Saturday’s Loveland Liberty 5K will look different than usual, organizers said.
Runners will start in waves of no more than 50 every half hour, practice social distancing and be ushered quickly away from the finish line when they are done.
But the modifications approved by the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment will give Northern Colorado runners a chance to compete in a live race for the first time since coronavirus restrictions were put in place in mid-March.
“We worked hard to build an active running community in Loveland, and we’re all, obviously, wanting to do something to get out of the house and get back to some sense of normal,” race director Shane McWatters said Wednesday. “We wanted to figure out a way, if it was possible, to pull this thing off.”
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McWatters and his wife, Sara, who own and operate Sweetheart City Running, said they received their variance to state and local health orders a month ago, allowing them to hold this year’s race with numerous restrictions in place designed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Shane McWatters isn’t aware of any other live road races being run Saturday in Colorado. The Liberty 5K will be the first large, live local road race in more than three months.
The Horsetooth Half Marathon, Colorado Marathon and a handful of others usually held in April, May and June, as well as Fort Collins’ annual FireKracker 5K at City Park, were all canceled this year because of restrictions on group gatherings to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
The Liberty 5K’s usual start and finish areas, on opposite ends of Fairgrounds Park, were a critical piece of the plan approved by the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment and city of Loveland, Shane McWatters said.
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He also said the race course is essentially a figure-eight taking runners from the start on the east side of the park near the softball fields, along the Loveland Recreational Trail to First Street, east on First Street to Railroad Avenue and southwest back to the west side of Fairgrounds Park.
About 500 runners had registered for the race as of Wednesday morning, he said, down a bit from the usual range of 800 to 1,200 participants. Proceeds from the race will benefit High Plains Honor Flight.
Electronic-chip timing will be used to determine the top finishers in each age division, as well as the top overall finishers. Organizers are trying to put the fastest runners into a single wave, beginning at 8 a.m., he said. Traveling team trophies will be awarded to the team (schools, businesses, health clubs, etc.) with the most participants and the team with the most creative name.
“It’s going to have the look and feel of the normal Liberty 5K with a few variations,” Shane McWatters said. “The finish line is going to be somewhat similar; unfortunately, people aren’t going to be able to hang around as long as they otherwise would. They’ll grab their food and head on out to enjoy the rest of their Fourth of July.”
Coloradoan reporter Kelly Lyell can be reached by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KellyLyell and Facebook at www.facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. Help support Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.
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