NYCRUNS Holds First Race in Six Months


CEO and race director Steve Lastoe downloads key takeaways for other RDs nationwide


Good news, running world: New York City has hosted its first running event since the pandemic began. And it may have had a lousy t-shirt .. but that was as advertised.

Running USA member NYCRUNS held its last 2020 in-person race on March 7, the day before the LA Marathon – in other words, the last gasp of running before COVID-19 precautions essentially locked down racing nationwide.

So Friday, Aug. 28 was not just an average Friday for Steve Lastoe’s 10-year-old running event company. That day, NYCRUNS hosted the first in person running event in New York City since the pandemic lockdowns – a major accomplishment and positive sign for the running industry at large. Around 215 runners showed up for the “Lousy T-Shirt Race,” and launched in six waves of as many as 50 participants each, with 30 minutes between each wave. Total field size was limited to 300, but hosting the event on a Friday morning, as well as extensive communications to runners about the expectations entailed, kept numbers in check.

Lastoe, founder and CEO of NYCRUNS, said that he believes the company’s relative youth made recreating an event to meet social distancing and health and sanitation requirements easier. “We’ve been around for 10 years. We’re not newbies, but we’ve had to grow and adapt very quickly over that time. The skill to create from scratch is very much there for us,” he said.

He was kind enough to share his takeaways from the event with Running USA and even more importantly, his operations plan. Aided by IRONMAN templates this was more that there plan among others was one I reviewed but thought was the best., Lastoe based the plan on the concept of DASH. The acronym stands for:

  1. D – Density reduction (keeping runners apart, on the course, and before and after the event)
  2. A – Athlete communication (all expectations for runner behavior and event rules were laid out in detail, and runners had to sign a participation agreement)
  3. S – Self-Reliance (athletes needed to bring their own face coverings, bring limited personal belongings, and were encouraged to use the bathroom at home)
  4. H – Hygiene (cleaning policy on site, porta-pottie protocols, and a transaction-less event)

Each is equally important, especially in a high-density environment like New York City. To see all the specifics, download the DASH plan here.

“My biggest takeaways for other race directors are: Number one, come to your permitting authority with a world class plan. Don’t try to coast by with anything you’ve used pre-COVID. Have a plan and be ready to explain every aspect of it,” Lastoe summarized.

“Number two, be flexible. You're not trying to put on the event that you put on six months ago or last year, you're trying to put on the best event that can be put on today.

“And number three, be sensitive to the needs of your community. People are going to have different reactions to events resuming. In New York City, it largely feels like we're on the same page here. But that may not be the case everywhere.”

The Lousy T-Shirt Race took place in New York City’s Prospect Park, which meant that city permitting authorities were concerned with maintaining social distance, for race participants and park-goers alike. Runners wore masks, and in a post-race survey, Lastoe learned that 37 percent would be willing to wear masks at all times at future events. The same survey showed that 99 percent of survey respondents (about half of runners took the survey) were satisfied with the safety precautions utilized.

With a successful event in the books, Lastoe is looking ahead in the hopes of having four more this fall, including a full marathon entirely in Prospect Park. NYCRUNS needs to have about 2,000 athletes cross finish lines each month to stay fiscally healthy, he said. During the six month no event period, a successful virtual event, the Subway System Challenge, helped keep things going. A Subway System Challenge II is now underway as well.

Looking forward, Lastoe wants to keep building on the success with DASH and gradually get back to larger events.

“I think that over the next few months, or maybe even in maybe in the spring, this will become a race that has a more constant flow of runners starting and finishing. We’re going to build on it, and hopefully get back to races of up to 1500 people over the next four or five months.”