Running Goes Virtual
Running Zone revamps popular race series for 2020-21
For 16 years, the Running Zone Foundation has held its multi-race series, culminating with the anniversary Run for the Gecko 5K each May. Last year, the series had 10,000 total participants, with more than seven community organizations benefiting.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns in March, however, the execution of the popular local series was forced to change.
With no real answers on when in-person events would again be safe enough to take place, the race management team at Running Zone got to work repositioning the 2020-2021 series that was scheduled to kick off on July 4 with the Firecracker 5K at Front Street Park in Melbourne.
To have the in-person event approved, Running Zone staff presented social distancing and safety initiatives to the Melbourne City Council for approval. Those precautions included staggered race start times, bottled water and pre-packaged food and awards announcements that took place later in the day on Facebook Live, instead of at the race site.
“We wanted people to have the excitement of an in-person event but stay safe,” said Laura Sanchez, events director for the Running Zone Foundation. “We wanted to set up a good model for future events.”
There was also a virtual option to participate — a new option for all of the series races this year. For the first time since the series began, participants can also earn a finisher medal for each race they complete. Those who finish all seven races in the series, either virtually or in-person, will earn the individual medals as well as a beach towel for series completion.
“We really want people to feel comfortable running these races. Even though we’ve implemented social distancing and recommended precautions at our in-person events, we want everyone to have the option for virtual participation if they prefer,” Sanchez said.
Using the successful Firecracker 5K logistics as a blueprint, the staff planned for August’s Tailgate 2-miler at The Avenue Viera that benefited the Sharing Center of Central Brevard.
The next race will be the Ghostly Gecko 5K on Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. beginning and ending at the Eau Gallie Civic Center. The race benefits the Eau Gallie High School Health & Wellness Academy.
The remaining races in the series:
- Jingle Bell 2 Miler, 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 19 at the Satellite Beach Library, benefiting the Satellite High School running programs
- Brevard Zoo’s Rafiki Run 3K, 7 a.m. on Feb. 13 at the Brevard Zoo, benefiting the Brevard Zoo
- Pirate Plunder 2 Miler, 6:30 p.m. on April 3 at Meg O’Malley’s in downtown Melbourne, benefiting Harmony Farms
- Run for the Gecko 5K, 7 a.m. on May 8 at Wickham Park Community Center, benefiting Eau Gallie High School running programs
To sign up to participate in-person or virtually, visit www.runningzoneseries.com.
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