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'Breath of fresh air': CDA Marathon expects huge turnout as Idaho moves to Stage 4

Idaho has moved into Stage 4 of the state's COVID-19 rebound plan. Under this stage, gatherings of any size can be held.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — There's only a few weeks left until the Coeur d'Alene Marathon in McEuen Park on May 30th. After majorly downsizing the event last year, organizers are hopeful their COVID-19 mitigation tactics will help this year go off without a hitch.

"It's going to be a breath of fresh air for people that have been waiting for this for over a year now," CDA Marathon race director Ryan Hite said. 

A breath of fresh air, indeed both literally and figuratively. Hite is excited to produce the May 30th races, giving a chance for community members to get some exercise while getting some semblance of normalcy back to athletics in more than a year. 

"We produced the 2019 race and we had thousands of runners go out of a start line within probably 30 minutes," he said. "In 2020, that same process took us three days. So we produced the race over Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

Hite also owns Negative Split, an events production company that typically organizes over 100 races across the Inland Northwest each year. With brand new changes to Idaho's rebound plan, the Marathon and other races will no longer be a full weekend event.

Governor Brad Little and the Department of Health and Welfare have officially moved the state into Stage 4. In this stage, Idahoans can have gatherings of any size if they follow physical distancing and sanitation requirements. This includes hosting events outside if possible and disinfecting the area. 

"Regardless of the phase that we're in, we're still really cognizant of public health, and we're trying to create an experience for everybody," Hite added. "It will be for the person that's very COVID concerned and not ready to really get back out into these public gatherings. But, also, we're trying to provide a little bit more of a normal experience for those people that are looking forward and are ready for [no more guidelines]."

Hite and his team have put together safety plans to fit each runner's concern level. Not only are they still hosting an in person and virtual event, they'll space-out runners from 5:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a one day event. Masks are still encouraged when athletes are not running. Food vendors and sponsor booths will be waiting for you at the finish line. 

They are planning to do start waves of less than 50 people every few minutes, he said. Runners are allowed to begin running at any moment within their allotted ten-minute slot. There will not be an official gun that goes off for the start, runners are allowed to start anytime during their start wave in which the start line is empty of people and you can maintain physical distancing, Hite said. 

"We don't anticipate just having 2,500 people, shoulder to shoulder in less than a month from now," he said. "That's just probably not where we're going to be, but it's going to look more like normal."

More than just normal, he said this year already has a huge turnout. They are expecting up to 2,700 runners for the Marathon, nearly one thousand more people in comparison to previous years. He said they typically get around 1,800 participants. 

The 2020 event was set to bring roughly 1,500 runners to the Lake City over the three days. Organizers allowed eight runners at a time to begin racing every five minutes. Runners were allowed to begin running at any moment within their allotted five-minute slot. 

"People are excited, I think there's pent up energy to get back at it," he added. "I think it just goes to show people are ready to get back out and want to be outside and exercising and it'll be a fun year."

Registration is still open on their website for the Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10K, 5K, and Kids Challenge. It is first come first serve.

Shirts are only guaranteed for participants registering more than 10 days before the race. Shirts are on a first come first serve basis for those registering less than 10 days before. No day of race registration is allowed. 

All finishers will receive a finisher medal, bottle of water, snacks, and food options. Finishers may take a photo at the photo backdrop after their finish. Race merchandise will also be available near the finish, he said.