OCEANSIDE, Calif. — California typically hosts more than 2,000 endurance events each year. But still facing the COVID-19 pandemic, state public health officials have yet to share guidance on when events such as bike races, runs and triathlons can return.
“Psychologically, emotionally, physically being able to do events is so important to who we are and what we get to do,” said Bob Babbitt, a member of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.
Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted all of the state’s regional stay-at-home orders last month. The move created space for restaurants, churches and outdoor recreation options to return with modifications as counties returned to the previous four tiered system.
San Diego County remains the state’s most restrictive purple tier.
Although the color-coded reopening system addresses youth, recreational and professional sports, Supervisor Jim Desmond said it should do the same for endurance sports. Prior to the pandemic, San Diego County played host to a number of events, including at least eight in Oceanside. They generate millions of dollars in tourism spending and create tens of thousands of jobs each year.
Desmond argues the industry is a boon for Southern California, “helping businesses, helping hotels and helping the mental health of people (and) some of these athletes.”
If communities are able to host events, they could do it safely without jeopardizing safety, he said.
“They can operate outside endurance sports safely and they’re going to show people they can do it,” he said. “They’re willing to do all of the right things. This is a big thing for not only Oceanside, but for the entire San Diego County.”
On Thursday, the California Coalition of Endurance Sports said endurance events should be allowed to return, though they would look much different. The organization said events are possible with fewer volunteers and no spectators in addition to maintaining social distancing, setting up sanitation stations and allowing athletes to start at different times.
Babbitt, who participated in a triathlon in December in Florida, said it was a safe experience.
“We were socially distant,” he said. “When we went down to the swim start, they gave us masks to wear that we threw away before we started the swim. We had four people go in the water at a time, socially distant.”
According to Babbitt, competing in endurance events keeps people “young” and “vibrant.”
“It keeps you healthy and in this age of COVID, it’s even more important for people to be active,” he said.