18,000 to take part in ‘milestone’ Covid race event to trial safe return of mass gatherings

Three separate races will be held in Hertfordshire on 24 and 25 April (Photo: Shutterstock)

Up to 18,000 runners and spectators will take part in a ‘milestone’ weekend race as part of trials to allow the safe return of mass events.

Three separate races involving 3,000 runners and 3,000 spectators will descend on Hatfield park in Hertfordshire on 24 and 25 April for the Reunion 10K.

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Reopening without social distancing

The event, organised by London Marathon Events (LME), is part of a government scheme to gather scientific evidence on how venues can reopen safely without the need for social distancing.

Those taking part, including runners, spectators and staff, will be required to take a Covid-19 test before and after the event.

These are expected to be lateral flow tests, which can return results in around 30 minutes.

LME has said that everyone will be asked if they have been vaccinated against coronavirus at the event, but this is not a requirement to attend.

Each of the three races will be set up “slightly differently” to learn from each one, and event organisers are working with scientists and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to work out the details.

Hugh Brasher, event director of LME, said the event is the biggest he is aware of in more than a year, and marks an important milestone in safely returning to “some form of new normality”.

Mr Brasher said lockdown has led to a “huge drop off” in people doing sport and activities, but events can help to give people a goal and a reason to do more exercise.

He said: “It gives them that motivation. And I think it’s been a really hard slog the last year for the whole of society.

“I think particularly people have felt this last lockdown to be incredibly difficult over the winter months, the darker nights.

“Now with the sun outside, last week having some beautiful weather, I think there’s a real optimism at the moment, and these events that the government have announced are part of that optimism, and as I say we are absolutely delighted to be part of that.

Mr Brasher said the event is an “important milestone”, adding: “We absolutely believe that this is a key step to a lot of big events happening over the whole of the summer period.”

More trial events to come

The government is rolling out a series of trial events over the next few months to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events, with the launch of a ‘Covid status certification’ scheme.

The so-called ‘vaccine passports’ will show if a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, had a recent negative test, or has “natural immunity” having tested positive in the previous six months.

The first trial is due to take place on 16 April at the Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool, followed two days later by the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on 18 April.

The scheme will also be tested at the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which runs from 17 April to 3 May, and a mass participation run at Hatfield House on 24 and 25 April.

The pilots will culminate with the FA Cup Final, again at Wembley, on 15 May.

Officials are working with clinical and ethical experts to ensure there are “appropriate exemptions” for people who are advised to the vaccine and for whom repeat testing would be difficult.