[ This is a copy of an email that was sent out to our mailing list on Jan 9 2021 – it contains updates for all of our events including Afton. If you did not receive this as an email and would like to join our mailing list, you can do so HERE https://www.aftontrailrun.com/join-our-mailing-list/ – as always, the best way to stay informed is to visit our website as we will not always email. Thank you. ]
First and foremost friends, I love you and I appreciate you. Secondly, before I get into race stuff, I want to acknowledge all the suffering right now – we are losing a lot of people every day and it is heartbreaking. I sincerely hope that this note finds you and your loved ones healthy; Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. At a minimum, I hope you are hanging in there, because that is certainly asking enough of yourself right now. Maybe you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum and are doing well or are even thriving – knowing as many of you as well as I do, I would guess that even during these challenging times, many of you have found ways to make the absolute best of what at times has felt like an impossible situation. Whether you are a frontline medical worker, have suffered from Covid yourself, lost a loved one to the disease, have a business that is struggling, have lost employment, are struggling with schooling / home-schooling your children or this whole situation just generally has you down, please know that you are not alone and that you have what it takes to get through this. Resilience, gratitude and a positive mental attitude are just some of the skills that we develop and continue to hone as runners. These attributes can translate well to other aspects of our lives, especially during hard times. As disruptive as all of this has been, an interesting observation is that the simple act of running has more or less been impervious to the pandemic. Lacing up a pair of shoes and heading out the door is still there for nearly all of us when we need it. Even if due to external factors, it is just for a mile or two – some days that is just enough to take the edge off. Thank God it is still there for us. For so many of us the ritual of running has been important in grounding us and allowing us to maintain equanimity through all of this. Now, racing as you know, that has been a different story entirely. One of the confounding features of the pandemic has been that businesses and activities that bring people together have for the most part, been put out of commission. Restaurants, concerts, sporting events, gyms, houses of worship, running races and more – culturally, these are important spaces where we build, foster and experience community. They are places we come together to share our in our humanity and to celebrate as one. I miss many of these things and I know that you do too. While the shutdowns have placed a heavy burden on the institutions and proprietors that facilitate communal experiences, it is so important that we look out for our most vulnerable citizens and not overwhelm our medical professionals/systems and thus, we all must sacrifice. For individuals, many of the ‘asks’ have been pretty simple; don’t gather in groups and wear a mask.
As bleak as things are with the pandemic today, as we head into 2021 the vaccine brings with it cause for optimism and hope. Lets call it cautious optimism since many of the nation’s leading experts are warning that it could be late Summer, Fall or even beyond before we return to anything that resembles life as we knew it. Exactly what this might mean for running races is yet to be seen. Just as it was in 2020, our ability to hold races in 2021 will be contingent on where things are at with the pandemic generally, state guidelines for running events, being able to secure and then have our permits honored, and our ability to responsibly host safe and fun events that does not put any runner, volunteer or community member at risk. As a result, we will not be opening registration for any of our races until we see a clear path forward. Again, what that looks like is hard to say, but I suspect that it is one of those things where we will know it when we see it. Normally, registration for Zumbro opens in November while registration for Superior Spring, Afton, Superior Fall and ESTRS open on January 1st – but as the majority of you already know from visiting our website(s) we are holding off, we do not want to collect any registration revenue until we feel confident that a given race will actually happen. Humans love certainty – this pandemic offers none. It would be foolish for me to attempt to make predictions. At this point what I can tell you is that we will continue to keep an eye on things, stay in touch with you and let you know when / if we will be able to move forward with registration, and in turn races in 2021. Believe me when I tell you, nobody wants to get back to racing as much as me. I have been running marathons since 1996 and ultras since 2003 – running played a huge role in saving me from a life of addiction, and has been an integral part of my life since I was a young kid. Cheri and I have built our lives around RSR and the races that we direct. As race organizers who host these events professionally, everything is riding on a return to normalcy. You can expect to hear from me again by mid-March at the latest. In the meantime I have anticipated some questions that folks might have and have created a FAQ, which is below my signature at the end of this correspondence.
Finally, I cannot begin to thank you all enough for your support throughout this difficult year. We have had to make tough decisions, deliver hard news and accept harsh realities. And… it’s not over, there are likely more tough decisions to be made in 2021, especially in the early part of the year. For each month that ticks by without a return to normalcy, it will get harder to hang on – but we are not in this alone, and that helps so much. Buffering us has been an outpouring of support from our running community at large. Through decades of being involved in the Minnesota (and national) running scene we have developed precious friendships and have built strong alliances. Emails and snail mail have flooded in all year – we have received literally thousands of supportive notes, echoing how our races have positively impacted you our runners, your family members, our volunteers, the trail systems, parks and communities where our events are held. You have sent coffee and sweets (you know Cheri and I too well), checks and cash, pictures that your kids drew, and more. We are so grateful for all of it and we will never forget it. Many more of you have asked what you can do to support us in the months to come, and I have hesitated. You have all done so much already. A friend recently gave me a scolding for not saying anything all year, I respect him and told him I would put it out there eventually, so here it is. If you have not seen it already, after nearly a year of really hard work (a huge thank you to my development partner), our new Rocksteady Running website launched early in 2020, but with so many larger issues at hand, it never felt like the right time to fully promote it. So, with that said, a year later… if you like, please check it out at http://www.rocksteadyrunning.com – if you want to support us; buy a hat, a poster, a t-shirt, etc. – please bear with us as availability of some things is getting low or have run out as we just don’t have the resources to be reproducing much right now. The online store is cool, but what I am the most proud of is the home page of the new site and the vast collection of incredible images from our amazing photographers from all of our races over the years and what these images represent – experiences had, memories created, connections made and lives positively impacted. Throughout this, anytime I have started to feel defeated, scrolling through these images has provided an instant reminder of what it is that we are fighting to preserve and carry forth in the years to come. Patience my friends, this is not a sprint, it is an ultra – we will get there eventually, and when we do, it will be glorious.
We love you and we miss you. If you need anything, please reach out.
Zumbro, Superior(S), Afton, Superior(F), ESTRS
• Those that were accepted into either the 2020 Superior Spring Trail Race or the 2020 Superior Fall Trail Race are still guaranteed to make it through the lottery if they apply / register in 2021 (if either race does not happen in 2021, you will have guaranteed entry in 2022) – as stated previously, you will need to pay the full entry fee. For any remaining race spots that are not claimed, which we anticipate few, the lottery will likely be conducted as normal – that said, if we need to limit the field, we may not accept any additional runners beyond those that had been accepted in 2020. Please note that for any remaining spots we will not be accepting virtual races as qualifiers.
• For all of our other, non-Superior races, they do not sell out so fast that you will miss getting in – if you register right after we let you know that registration is opening (and if you were registered in 2020, you will be some of the first to know), you will have no problem getting in, but it would be wise to act decisively if / when the time comes.
• If we can proceed with races in 2021 it is safe to assume that regardless of where things are at with the pandemic that the races will be simplified, pared down, more self-sufficient, have simpler aid stations with fewer options, no post race meals etc. Field limits may be slightly reduced and race schedules / days may be altered. Entry fees will be the same as they were in 2020 due to other modifications that we expect will increase event costs.
• If races can happen there is a strong chance that registration for races will open much closer to the race dates with much less time to make a decision to register – read; we do not want to open registration 6 months in advance, blindly guessing where things will be with the pandemic come race day. For those wondering about how to train amidst this uncertainty it appears your options will be to get fit and stay fit not knowing whether or not a race will actually happen or attempt to cram if/once you hear a race will be happening, that is the best we can offer in the absence of having a crystal ball.
• For those that are wondering about how to handle travel plans, lodging etc., I would expect to make those decisions very late / close to event dates and pay the associated premiums and deal with the potential lack of availability OR book early but know and fully understand the refund, cancellation and rebook policies of the airlines, hotels etc that you are using – maybe better yet for 2021 at least, plan to race closer to home, there are great events just about everywhere these days.• In the interest of the health and safety of all involved with our evets, should races resume during Covid 19, you can expect that already vetted and standardized running race industry specific and common sense modifications will be implemented as part of a comprehensive Covid 19 preparedness plan for each our events. Specific guidelines will be tailored to state and local mandates at the time that each specific event takes place.
• All of our registration policies will remain the same as always: 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, administration and overhead. 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.
• While not final at this point and subject to change until fully permitted and / or subject to change due to COVID, the likely race dates should be as follows:
Zumbro Endurance Run: Sometime between April 7 and April 21, 2021.
Superior Spring Trail Race: Historically / always the weekend before Memorial Day weekend – Saturday May 22, 2021
Afton Trail Run: Historically / always the first Saturday in July – Saturday July 3, 2021
Superior Fall Trail Race: Historically / always the weekend after Labor Day weekend – Friday September 10 and Saturday September 11, 2021
Endless Summer Trail Run Series: All yet TBD but likely an almost identical schedule to 2019 and 2020 – Lebanon in May, French in June, Lebanon again in July, Murphy and Spring Lake Park early in August.