2021 Afton Trail Run Participant Guide, Event Logistics Plan and Covid 19 Preparedness Plan
Friday July 2 and Saturday July 3, 2021 – Afton State Park, near Hastings Minnesota
About this document:
This is required reading for every runner planning to register for the (modified) 2021 Afton Trail Run. Prior to registering, runners must review this document in its entirety. It should also be reviewed again the week of the event since some of this information is subject to slight modifications.
This is a long read, over ten minutes, but it is imperative that you read it.
The ‘Afton Trail Run Participant Guide, Event Logistics Plan and Covid 19 Preparedness Plan’ intends to achieve the following;
• To provide an overall event guide for our participants, outlining everything they can expect from this year’s modified event; beginning with the registration process, during the event and after the event has concluded.
• To communicate to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR), Afton State Park management and staff, the Minnesota Department of Health, local emergency managers, surrounding communities, participants, staff and volunteers, the steps we will take to mitigate the transmission of Covid-19 while providing the safest and most enjoyable event experience possible for our participants.
We feel that outlining this information in plain language via a single unified document will provide the greatest level of transparency and understanding of the entire event among all stakeholders. By intertwining all of the specific event information along with Covid-19 mitigation specifics, everyone that would like to participate will be compelled to read this document. The plan illustrates what our Covid-modified event will look like while encouraging the greatest level of adherence to the protocols contained within.
Preface: An acknowledgement of an improving Covid-19 situation.
While the Covid-19 situation is continuing to improve and Minnesota guidelines are starting to relax, this year’s Afton Trail Run will still be held in a modified format for the following reasons.
• We are still in the early days of the Covid-19 recovery, and we are choosing to err on the side of caution. Normalcy (or a new normal) seems to be right around the corner but we do not feel compelled to be the ones to spearhead a return to racing as normal – it is coming, in due time.
• Risk tolerances vary. For each one of our participants (and volunteers) who is ready for the return of mass start races and all of the accoutrements of years past, there is another who is not quite ready and prefers a modified event. By going with our modified event format (which was very well received at our Zumbro Endurance Run in April and Superior Spring Trail Race in May), we can offer an event that works for all of our participants.
• Afton State Park broke all-time daily attendance records throughout 2020, and pressures on the park continue in 2021. Parking at Afton State Park is limited and for the 2021 event (due to their Covid policies) we will not have access to the overflow parking at the Afton Alps Ski Area that we have used in the past. In order to not take up 100% of the parking spaces at the state park, so as to allow opportunities for non-race-related park users to enjoy Afton over the holiday weekend, we will reduce our overall field limit and spread the event out over two days.
• With Afton State Park generally being so busy, we want to reduce the overall number of runners each day and spread those runners out by the way of wave starts – this in order to not overwhelm or make any other park users feel uncomfortable. The Afton Trail Run has been a steward of Afton State Park for nearly 30 years; we have a stellar reputation, have a substantial philanthropic and volunteer legacy with the park, and we want to act reasonably, responsibly and in a way that puts all park users at ease.
• With state guidance changing, individual entities (both public and private) will implement their own policies and operating plans. At the time of permitting the Afton Trail Run, the Minnesota DNR was still in the process of determining what their large event policies will be over the coming months and the new guidance had not yet been fully instituted.
Afton Trail Run Overview:
The Afton Trail Run is a trail running event that takes place annually at Afton State Park near Hastings Minnesota. The Afton Trail Run was founded in 1994. With the Covid-cancellation in 2020, the 2021 event will be the 27th annual. The event features two distances, a single loop 25KM run and a two-loop 50KM run. The event is organized by Rocksteady Running. Rocksteady Running produces nine trail running events each year in the state of Minnesota. The mission of Rocksteady Running is to “create experiences that facilitate connection” – connections with each other, with our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves and with the natural world around us. Our events are a vehicle for and celebration of living healthy, active and meaningful lives.
The 2020 edition of the Afton Trail Run was canceled due to Covid-19. We will hold a Covid-modified event in 2021. We intend to do this in a safe, responsible and respectful manner. We have carefully reviewed publicly available Covid-19 information, data and science. Coupling insights from many sources, and grounding our protocols in the available state guidance, we are confident in our ability to hold a safe event. While running events are not classified as essential; physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellness are – our events are a catalyst for these important things, made even more important after the year we all just experienced. Outlined below are the steps we will take to ensure the safest event possible in light of the ongoing, but presently improving, Covid-19 pandemic.
What to expect:
Runners who are considering participating in the 2021 event can expect a safe, fun, quiet and extremely low-key experience. This will be much more a personal challenge to do by yourself or with a couple of friends or family already in your bubble vs the full-blown race experience of past years. We will provide two (2) days of racing, 370 runners maximum per day spread out over ten (10) start windows each morning. If you want a better idea of what to expect prior to signing up, ask around, ( HERE is a good place https://www.facebook.com/groups/rocksteadyrunningcommunity ) and get feedback from those that ran our Zumbro race in April and our Superior race in May.
Our plan is rooted the following concepts:
• Runners, staff and volunteers will be required to stay home if they are sick or have been exposed to someone that is sick.
• We will host a smaller, quieter and a greatly simplified event. The event will be spread out over more days than usual in order to keep daily attendance numbers down, so physical distance can be maintained, so parking resources at the park are not strained and non-race-related park users are not made to feel uncomfortable by our event.
• There will be no mass or even small group starts, instead each runner (or small group of friends / family members) will start on their own and be individually timed in a time-trial type format..
• Most aspects of the event that normally encourage congregation will be eliminated including but not limited to; elaborate aid stations, merchandising, sponsor booths, post event food / festivities, awards, posted results, etc.
• All event activities will be completely outdoors – we will forgo the use of the Visitors Center as our check-in location, instead check-in will happen on race morning, adjacent to the start / finish lines.
• Spectators will not be allowed at the aid stations / water stops – However, a friend or family member (or two) may come to the finish area just prior to your finishing in order to cheer you in.
• Proper and frequent hand hygiene will be encouraged and numerous hand sanitizing stations will be available.
• Touchpoints and surface areas will be routinely cleansed.
• Maintaining physical distance is encouraged.
• Masks WILL NOT be required for those that are vaccinated. Those that are not yet fully vaccinated should mask at check-in, at the start and again at the finish (read; anywhere that there is a density of people).
Below are the specific measures we will take in order to stay in compliance with these stated goals.
The event will not be finalized and scheduled as far in advance as normal:
We normally open registration for the Afton Trail Run on January 1 for the July event. By not opening registration until we get closer to the event, we will have the most accurate picture possible of where things stand with the virus and associated state guidelines. These short timeframes will allow us to make the most prudent decisions possible as to whether or not to hold the event and will inform what additional protocols may need to be implemented based on up-to-date public health guidance.
No advanced collection of entry fees:
Once registration is open, runners will provide their contact information, other event pertinent information and their payment details, but (radically) will not be charged the entry fee until one week prior to the event. If the event must be canceled prior to us charging your card (outside of one week), credit / debit cards will not be charged. Once your card has been charged, there will be no refunds and our standard registration policy (published later in this document will apply). This will allow us to stay dynamic and react to any increase in severity of the pandemic and / or any changes to state guidelines. In order to achieve this level of flexibility, we will not print t-shirts or medals in advance of the event and will generally reduce amenities provided before, during and after the event. Instead, t-shirts and finisher medals will be produced and mailed to our runners after the event successfully takes place – this cost to mail these items is included in the entry fee. Additionally, these practices will further reduce the number of touchpoints / contacts throughout the event.
Lower daily field limits, fewer volunteers and spectators:
Afton normally hosts 900+ runners, 200+ volunteers and 500+ family / spectators for a single day event. For 2021 we will host two days of racing, running the 25K and 50K each of the two days. The event will be run by a very small crew of staff and volunteers numbering no more than 35 each day. We are finding that the majority of our regular volunteer base have been vaccinated. Largely, runners will be responsible for themselves with a minimum of event / volunteer support. As always we will coordinate closely with local emergency services to ensure that the greatest margin of safety possible is built into the event.
Pre-selected start windows:
The event will be conducted in a time-trial type format, runners not corralled or held until a specific start time. Runners will start on their own, within a pre-selected window and each runner’s individual start and finish time will be recorded, producing a net time. At the time of registration, participants will have the opportunity to choose their desired start time / 15 minute start window (subject to availability / first come first served). There will be 10 start windows available each morning, with 37 runners each. The first available 15 minute start window will begin at 6:00AM each day and the last will begin at 9:00AM. The individual time-slots / windows will be as follows:
6:00 AM (must start running between 6:00 and 6:15) – 50K only
6:20 AM (must start running between 6:20 and 6:35) – 50K only
6:40 AM (must start running between 6:40 and 6:55) – 50K only
7:00 AM (must start running between 7:00 and 7:15) – 50K only
7:20 AM (must start running between 7:20 and 7:35) – 25K only
7:40 AM (must start running between 7:40 and 7:55) – 25K only
8:00 AM (must start running between 8:00 and 8:15) – 25K only
8:20 AM (must start running between 8:20 and 8:35) – 25K only
8:40 AM (must start running between 8:40 and 8:55) – 25K only
9:00 AM (must start running between 9:00 and 9:15) – 25K only
Runners may start checking in no more than 15 minutes prior to their start window and shall not congregate near the check-in or start areas prior to that time.
Registrants from the 2020 Covid-canceled event will have the first opportunity to register via a special invitation that will be sent out on Wednesday June 2. Invitations will be sent to the email address we have on file from when you registered last year. Please be sure to add info@ultrasignup to your email providers “whitelist” so the invitation is not mistakenly sent to SPAM. If your email address has changed, you can contact us to provide updated information and we will send you a new invitation. If you do not see it, be sure to check your SPAM folder for this special invitation. Starting on June 8 at 9:00AM CST, registration for remaining spots will open, first come first served. When you register, you will sign up for a start day and a start time / window as outlined above. You will provide your payment information, but uniquely, your card will not be charged until Friday June 25 – one week prior to the first day of the two day event. We are doing this because of the chance of another Covid 19 cancellation and to allow anyone that becomes ill between the time they register and June 24, the opportunity to withdraw. After registering, you will be able to retract your registration up until Thursday June 24 and will not be charged. If you do not retract by Thursday June 24, you will be automatically charged. Once registered, you may switch your preferred time slot to a new time slot (if available) by contacting the race director up until June 24, but not after. Registration will close on Thursday June 24 at 11:59PM. After reviewing this document in its entirety, you can register via the registration link on our website.
Entry fee(s) 50KM: $85.00 25KM: $75.00 (plus UltraSignup fee).
Once processed – see specific protocol / timelines above), entry fees are not refundable under any circumstance, race registrations are not transferable to other participants, future years races or other Rocksteady Running events and transferring between distances (up or down) is not allowed. The Race Director reserves the right to modify or cancel the race or course for safety concerns, trail condition concerns, natural disaster or pandemic. In such cases there will be no refunds of race entry fees. Each athlete must accept any such risk of their entry fee paid. There is no complimentary race entry to a future race. Entry fees collected are used to develop and produce the event, starting well in advance of the race date – including course preparation, race supplies, permits and administration. We will make every effort to produce a fair and safe event for all participants. Any decision we make that impacts the race date or potential cancellation is carefully considered and based on the overall event safety, sustainability and manageability.
Waitlist / Lottery Language:
Our friends at UltraSignup have been graciously helping us manage a very complex and atypical registration process for this year’s events. You may see language on your registration confirmation regarding ‘waitlist / lottery’ ‘paused-processing’ or ‘delayed-charge’ – please note that once you successfully register for an available time-slot you are in, and are guaranteed that spot, and will be automatically be charged on June 25, unless you withdraw prior to that time – the waitlist / lottery functionality via UltraSignup is what we are leveraging in order to not charge you until the week before the race.
Stay home if you are sick or not feeling well:
Runners are required to stay home if they are Covid positive, have been exposed to someone that is Covid positive in the past 14 days, are not feeling well or are experiencing any of the following symptoms. We will email this reminder to runners in the week leading up to the event. We are allowing registrants to retract their registration up until Thursday June 24. If you are exposed, develop symptoms or test positive for Covid-19 between June 24 and event day, please contact us.
• Fever above 100.4 degrees F or chills
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Muscle or body aches
• New loss of taste or smell
• Sore throat
• Congestion or runny nose
• Nausea or vomiting
* List of symptoms from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
Spectators will not be allowed to visit any of the water stops. You may however, have a friend / family / spectator (or two) come see you finish your race. We ask that your spectators only start to congregate around the finish line just prior to your finishing (read, not hang out there all day) so as to make room for others. It is very important to note that if your spectators are traveling separate from you and will be arriving later in the morning or day, that they will be subject to the same rules as other general public visitors who are coming out to the park – if all of the parking spots are taken, they will have to wait at the entrance of the park and will only be let in when spots become available.
The 2021 Afton Trail Run will be 100% outdoors. In alignment with state and national guidance, masks WILL NOT be required for those who are fully vaccinated. Masks will be required for participants who are not yet fully vaccinated when not running (bib number pickup, bathroom lines, start/finish area, start lines, finish line). You will be responsible for providing your own mask. We will maintain a cache of masks in the event that a participant forgets or loses theirs.
Hand sanitizer will be available near portable restrooms, at the start / finish area, and at water stops. Runners, volunteers and staff are encouraged to sanitize their hands frequently.
Staff / volunteers will wipe down all touchpoint / surface areas regularly with disinfectant.
Wherever possible runners, volunteers and staff shall maintain reasonable physical distance.
Getting to Afton:
Afton State Park
6959 Peller Avenue South
Hastings, MN 55033
If you are attending the race with friends or family that are already in your bubble, please carpool, parking is limited at Afton State Park.
A Minnesota State Parks pass is required to park in the state park. Please support our great Minnesota State Park System by purchasing an annual State Park pass. You can purchase an annual permit in advance by phone by calling 1-888-MINNDNR (as the guard shack will not be open upon your arrival to the park race morning). You can also stop by the guard shack on your way out of the park and pay your day permit fee or even better, purchase an annual pass. Follow this link for more details: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/permit.html By purchasing a park pass you not only support the entire state park system, you also increase the dollar amount that we are able to donate to the park as the Afton Trail Run is required to pay for every vehicle that does not have a state park permit (state park staff takes a count of all vehicles without a permit).
Afton State Park is located about 15 minutes from Woodbury, Hastings and Stillwater. About 30 minutes from St. Paul and about 45 Minutes from Minneapolis and Bloomington. Various lodging options are available in each city.
Camping is available at Afton State Park – there are camper cabins and yurts which fill up fast and there are hike-in campsites. Afton State Park (866.857.2757). Additional camping can be found at the nearby Washington County St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park or a little further away at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.
Event Day Check-In / Bib Number Pick-Up and Run Start:
This year’s check-in location will NOT be in the Visitor’s Center as it has been in years past. Check-in will take place outside, adjacent to the start / finish lines. Due to the pre-assigned / staggered start windows, lines should naturally be short. We will check you in so we have an accurate accounting of who is starting the run and we will hand you your pre-assigned bib number.
Bib Numbers, Chip and Manual Timing:
Your bib number should be worn on the front of your body and visible at all times. This race will be chip timed. Your timing chip will be affixed to the back of your race number. Do not remove your timing chip. Do not bend or fold your timing chip or crumple your race number – this may break your timing chip. Your race number and your timing chip must be pinned on your outer-most layer at all times. Above guidelines must be followed in order to ensure that finish times are recorded. This chip is disposable and does not need to be returned.
Start / Finish Line:
After you check in, you will proceed to the race start, making sure your bib number is clearly visible on the front of your body and recorded by the volunteer at the start line as you start. Please make eye contact with, and get the go ahead from this volunteer prior to starting your run so both you and the timer are confident that your start has been recorded.
We will use the same race course as in years past. A course map may be found HERE https://www.aftontrailrun.com/maps-and-data/
The course will be marked with orange flags, which will always be on the left hand side of the trail along with some supplemental arrows. In the one short section of “two-way traffic” course markers will be on both sides of the trail. It is unfortunate but is not unheard of at many of the major trail races that course vandalism has occurred and flagging has been intentionally moved or removed by vandals – it is important that you study the course maps prior to running and have a baseline concept of where you are going.
Trail runners by nature are polite folks steeped in trail etiquette. We will not micromanage how passing other runners should take place as this is a fairly natural process for all of us, but please plan to give a wider berth than normal due to Covid concerns. Should you encounter any non-race-related hikers please be patient and give these users the right of way.
Water Stops / Aid Stations:
IMPORTANT There will be NO food / nutrition / calories, sports drink or CUPS provided at the water stops, please plan accordingly.
Runners are encouraged to make use of hydration vests, packs and handheld bottles so they can run as much of the run as they can on the hydration and nutrition that they have brought with them to the event, and carry with them from the start. Our water stops / aid stations will be highly modified and greatly simplified. Should you need water, you will be able to self-serve, into your own drinking vessel, from our hands-free / foot-activated bottle fillers (if for any reason we have issues with these, they will be normal water jugs). When filling your bottles or hydration bladders please take care to not touch your bottle or bladder opening with the filling nozzle.
Any volunteers you encounter at the water stops will be there as observers only, making sure Covid protocols are being followed, making sure water jugs are full and there should a runner have an emergency to report.
Weather and Clothing:
Early July in Minnesota can be quite hot and humid. We have had temperatures reach the high 90’s with high humidity and have also had days as cool as the low 70’s. In its history, the Afton trail run has never been canceled or modified due to weather – you should train for and plan for a hot day – adjusting your pacing and race plan accordingly, along with proper hydration and electrolyte balance is key. Be prepared, watch the forecast and plan accordingly.
There will be portable restrooms at the Start / Finish area of the race and at the 25K split for 50K runners. There are also some permanent vault toilets just off of the race course – if you stay heads up and know where to look, these are roughly at mile 5 and mile 12.5 (also again at miles 20.5 and 28 for those in the 50K).
Pacers are not allowed.
As always, do not litter and please pick up any litter you see.
Out Loud Music:
Out-loud music is prohibited but you may wear headphones as long as you are aware of your surroundings.
50K runners are allowed a drop bag at the 25KM aid station – you can deliver your own drop bag to aid station 6 (which is just adjacent to the start/finish area) prior to the race start. Please note that your bags will be left exposed to the elements, read don’t put things in them that could melt or cannot get wet. Use of a waterproof bag is suggested. Please remember to retrieve your drop bag once you finish your race.
We have established time limits for both races. We will start sweeping / taking down the course from the 25KM aid station (start/finish area) at 11:15 am. Any 50K runners not out of the 25KM aid station by 11:15 AM will be pulled from the course. The finish line will close at 4:15PM each day. Depending on what start window you choose, this will allow up to 9:00 to 10:15 [H:MM] for you to complete the 50KM distance and up to 7:00 to 8:55 [H:MM] to complete the 25K. If you feel you cannot finish the 50KM distance in the time allotted, we encourage you to sign up for the 25KM race.
As always, should you need to drop out of the run, you must let an event official know. This is for safety / runner tracking so we have a complete accounting of who is on course at all times. If for any reason you leave the event and are not confident that your DNF was recorded, you can email the race director through the website.
Congregating at the finish line:
Upon completing the course, runners are welcome to spend some time at the finish area, relaxing and cheering their friends in. If you have been there awhile and it is getting busy, please consider moving on in order to make room for others.
No post event party, food or refreshments:
Typically we encourage sticking around after our events and socializing. We normally provide food and refreshments. For 2021, there will be no post event gathering, food or refreshments provided. Runners should plan to have needed sustenance with them for when they finish.
Shirts and Medals:
Due to the short registration window close to the event date and in order to keep pre-event costs down in the event of a cancellation, we will not be producing shirts or medals in advance. Instead we will start producing them after, and will ship them in the weeks following the event. Please note that the medals will be different than in years past so we can ship them more easily and cost effectively. Also, please note that not all runners are guaranteed to receive the same color shirt – Covid related supply chain issues will potentially affect our ability to source all of the same color shirts. We liked the 2019 shirt so much that we have been wanting run it in different colors in the coming years – we hope to be able to do it on black shirts this year, if so, they will look similar to THIS https://www.aftontrailrun.com/2021-race-shirts/
There will be no awards, either overall or age group. By having made it through the past year we are all winners – let us celebrate that.
The Afton Trail Run makes significant annual donations to the state park ( in the neighborhood of $60,000.00 as of 2020 ) and its organizers, volunteers and runners contribute 100’s of volunteer hours to the park annually, maintaining trails and doing invasive species removal / restoration and more.
Next year’s race date:
Historically the Afton Trail Run is held the first Saturday in July.
A few words about Rocksteady Running in 2021:
Please note that in order to hold events in 2021, and put forth the radical entry fee policies set forth in this document, over the past year Rocksteady Running has had to morph into a much different organization than we have been over the past number of years. My wife Cheri and I’s ability to work fulltime on events in the weeks and months leading up to them has been greatly diminished as we have had to further pursue additional income sources / careers, which fragments our time to work on events. Note that this will likely affect our ability to get back to you as quickly if you have questions, reduce pre and post-event media coverage, affect our ability to attract and service sponsorship deals, Affect our ability to provide as robust aid stations, will impact the scope / number of event amenities and more. All of that said, we will always prioritize event safety, emergency preparedness and event fundamentals while striving to provide a positive and engaging experience for all. We are grateful for the opportunity to carry on.
In order to make the event accessible to as many runners as possible, entry fees will be on par with years past. While some expenses will decrease due to less event day amenities, other costs will significantly increase due to Covid modifications / protocols – in general more event days and covid protocols will make these events more expensive to produce. If you have the ability to and would like to, anything additional you can donate beyond the base entry fee is greatly appreciated – you can make a direct donation to us HERE https://www.rocksteadyrunning.com/product/donate/ By participating in the event you are not only getting out and doing something healthy and life affirming, while experiencing an area / course you might not otherwise, you are supporting our organization so we can continue to be around in the years to come.
We love you and we care about each and every one of you. Nothing will ever be the same, but that does not mean it will not be great… maybe it will even be better than ever. I am excited to see what the future holds. Most importantly, let us never forget the more than half a million people we have lost over the past year and the front line medical workers that are the true heros of this awful pandemic. I encourage you all to take a moment, a deep breath, and think about those we lost this past year before you start your run in July. Lets run with gratitude in our hearts as we take in the splendor of Afton State Park and the scenic St. Croix River Valley along the way. Please reach out if you have any questions, I am always here for you.
Humbly and Respectfully,
Owner / Founder of Rocksteady Running
Race Director of the Afton Trail Run