COVID-19 has impacted a large number of outdoor events in the St. Louis area. And while some of them have chosen to cancel or go virtual, others have looked to alternative venues. Such is the case with the 2020-2021 Big River Trail Series.
The three-race series typically starts in September with the Flint Ridge Trail 10K/4mile, which is held at Indian Camp Creek in Foristell. Even though St. Charles County COVID-19 regulations were (and continue to be) less strict than those in St. Louis County, Big River Race Management thought it best to move the event to October due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“We were encouraged that St. Charles County was excited to have us,” said Matt Helbig, CEO of Big River Race Management. “We reassured people that we were going to follow protocols, and when we received the post-race participant survey, 100 percent responded that they felt safe. That was validation for us we were doing it right.”
Next up was The Skippo 10K/Half Marathon/30K in November, which normally takes places at Castlewood State Park. That park’s superintendent was reluctant to issue a permit for the event, though, due to increased park traffic and social distancing concerns, says Helbig.
“We went and checked it out, and the trails were great for us,” said Helbig. “Turnout wasn’t as big as it has been, but the response was overwhelmingly positive.”
The last race in the series, the Castlewood Cup 15K, will also be relocated from its usual venue of Castlewood State Park and will instead utilize portions of Klondike Park and Katy Trail State Park in Augusta.
“There was a 10-mile race out in Augusta probably in 2008. The route went north and south on the Katy and did a little loop through Klondike. I ran it, and that course has always been in the back of my head,” said Helbig.
“We’ve been in touch with the State, St. Charles County, and the City of Augusta, and they’re super excited to have us there,” he continued. “The local chamber of commerce has been rallying businesses to appeal to our runners, and we’re trying to help promote some of their businesses.”
In spite of the venue change, Castlewood Cup will keep its name “for recognition value,” said Helbig. “There will be safety protocols in place, and the race will be a little smaller than in the past, but that seems to be the theme of pandemic events.”
Helbig is unsure how the 2021-2022 Big River Trail Series will unfold and whether or not the races will return to their traditional locations. For now, he says he’s happy to be hosting races at all.
“The change in venues has been a challenge, but certainly a fun one getting to explore all the parks and trails out there for possibilities,” said Helbig. “People have just been so thankful and happy to be out at an event and feel normal for a little while. And it’s great for our guys, too. It’s been a tough year. It’s a great feeling for our staff to get out and do what they love to do.
Castlewood Cup is scheduled for February 6. Registration is open at bigrivertrailseries.com/castlewoodcup/.