ALBANY – Take a box of Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies off the supermarket shelf, and it will look exactly like it did 20, 30 years ago.
Crack the box, and the cookies are the same size and shape, with the same number of chips as they always have.
The same cannot be said for the popular 5k road race sponsored by Freihofer for the past 43 years.
The Freehofers Run for women, which annually generates a field of more than 2,000 involving a few dozen elite professional runners, some of whom have won medals at the Olympics, will look quite different when runners leave the starting line on Saturday.
No change will be more obvious and impactful than a change on the calendar – the Freihofers run is usually run in late spring, but this time will see an early fall, as race organizers adjust back to an in-person one. Have done the competition last year after holding a virtual race due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ongoing pandemic has prompted other changes in the race as well.
But the race is back, and as always, promises to offer an interesting mix of elite talent and a large field. Race director Kristen Hislop said entries were at around 1,200 as of Wednesday morning, with two registration events still to be held on Thursday and Friday.
“This year, nothing specific, with any event, and certainly with road races,” she said. “Everyone is about 50% correct. I think the reason for this, if we didn’t have a virtual option, and we’d only have offered in-person, it would have forced some people to participate in-person.” .
Freehoffers Run has a virtual option via online sign-up until Friday nights.
Runners can register for the in-person race, which begins Saturday at 9 a.m. on Washington Avenue just above City Hall, Thursday 4-8 p.m. and Friday 2-7 p.m. Russell Sage College, 130 New Begins at The Armory at Scotland Avenue.
Changes related to the pandemic will entail a variety of health and safety measures, notably the start of a staggering one that sends waves of small groups at intervals. The race is chip-timed, so runners will receive a net time based on crossing the start and finish.
“I had some epidemiologists, public health and doctors on a committee that looked at what was happening at other big races and events across the country and said, ‘Hey, what are they doing?’, then what’s happening locally. And we are looking at what we should be doing,” Hislop said. “We met with all the government entities, the Albany Police, and they said it looks great what you are doing.
“What we wanted to do is create the least amount of risk. We’re trying to reduce that risk as much as we can.”
Runners will not need to have the COVID vaccine.
Freehoffers Run kicks off its annual health and fitness expo with packet pickup and registration at The Armory as it falls into a range of large indoor gatherings.
Kids Fun Run will also not happen.
“People who need vaccinations, they have big indoor gatherings, or like the boilermaker has a big beer party afterwards, and people pack up there. So we’re not doing that,” Hislop said. said.
“I did not want [expo] With no time for vendors to come and people sit and chat with them and talk about their product or service. We felt we were reducing the risk enough that we didn’t need to go down the route of requiring vaccinations. “
The Albany Running Exchange, which has held several individual races with staggered starts and other safety measures since last fall, will hold time and results tabulation.
To promote social distancing, runners will have different colors on their bibs to suit staged runners based on their expected finish times.
With staggered intervals, the area should be free of the starting line in about five minutes.
“It’s a good flow of everyone going on the road and you’re starting out with guys who are pretty much the same speed,” Hislop said. “Washington Avenue is wide, we have lots of space and can naturally keep people a little farther away.”
A staggering start may create a competitive advantage in the elite field, but with just 20 runners, they’ll have plenty of room to stick together in Washington.
However, the calendar shift had a profound effect on the field.
For many elite runners, June is a comfortable place for a 5k on the schedule, but September is a different story.
The Boston Marathon, which is usually run in April, is gaining individual status even after going virtual in 2020 and scheduled for October 11, and the New York City Marathon on November 7.
“It’s marathon season. It’s two weeks from Boston, right?” Hislop said. “So there are a lot of people who have a marathon, and even throw a 5k, is it speed training? You have to plan it into your schedule, and a lot of coaches are saying, ‘No. ‘You are not doing this, because we are at the peak of the marathon.’
“Then there are collegiate runners, and they’re in the middle of their season. Usually in June, we’ll get a few high school runners, even if it’s state qualifier time. But it depends on how far you go in the collegiate season. Many of those runners would have been done by then.
“It’s definitely affected us. And just the times change and the years change. I know some people who are mothers and they have kids that they have to do. So it’s a challenge. I think We’ll have a nice, fun, close elite race, which will be great. It could be more regional. We’re pulling from Boston, and we have a top master runner, Sasha [Scott], coming from Syracuse. It’s great to have them as it shows the incredible talent we have in our field. “
One change that will benefit more runners at the top of the results table is that the prize money will be distributed across a wider range.
The winner usually receives $10,000 and the runner-up $5,000, but this year it will be $3,000 and $2,500, respectively, with Top 10 Opens, Top Five Masters, Top five age-graded, Top The five USATF members and the top five will be USATF-registered. Each team is getting a check.
Hislop said race organizers hope to return to the normal June date for the Freihofer run in 2022.
“It’s weird how people get into their pattern of ‘I do this race at the moment,'” she said. “I’ve been talking to a lot of runners, and they didn’t have things to do during COVID, and some people overtook. Then there were people who stopped running and now they’re having a hard time coming back Is.
“It’s almost like that fear of, ‘Wow, I haven’t run in a while, am I going to be able to?’ For some of the more competitive guys. If you’re not running regularly, you tend to forget, like, ‘Oh man, must have hurt now,’ and ‘I have this in me.'”
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