A popular Boise half-marathon that bills itself as “the toughest race in the Northwest” announced Thursday that it will require runners to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate, prompting both praise and outrage online.
Organizers for Race to Robie Creek, which takes runners from Fort Boise Park in the North End and up Rocky Canyon to the namesake creek, said in a Facebook post that participants and volunteers will need to show proof that they are fully vaccinated to participate. Runners and volunteers will also be required to wear masks at the start and finish lines and while riding buses at the event. Spectators will not be allowed at the finish line.
Michael Devitt, the race’s director, said organizers met with Dr. Christine Hahn, Idaho’s state epidemiologist, and other public health experts to determine the safest way to hold an in-person race.
“We want to put a real race on again,” Devitt said. “Our number one concern from the get-go is: How do we put on the safest race for all our participants and volunteers? And how do we make it that special Robie experience?”
It’s the first time Race to Robie Creek will be held in person since the coronavirus pandemic began. In 2020, organizers postponed and ultimately canceled the event, which was held virtually in 2021.
Robie Creek COVID precautions draw praise, criticism
The Race to Robie Creek Facebook post said the safety precautions were being made “in accordance with City of Boise requirements and CDC recommendations.” The city requires events of more than 250 attendees to require proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test and require facial coverings when six feet of social distancing isn’t possible. The race typically draws 2,400 to 2,500 runners and hundreds of spectators. Devitt said this year the race will accept around 2,000 runners.
Some people applauded the race organizers’ decision on social media.
“I am really happy to hear that the race will take place in person! I’ll happily put up with having to wear a mask at the start so that the race can take place,” wrote Facebook user Ryan Everett Lindsay.
But several others expressed disdain over the requirement. Some comments called the policy discriminatory, while others asked that they be allowed to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in lieu of proving vaccination.
“I was excited to be able to try this race again this year or in the future, but since you require the vaccine instead of letting me make my own personal health choices, I will give my money to another organization,” wrote Jessica Nisson Baird on Facebook.
Devitt said guidance from public health experts made it clear that vaccination requirements would be the safest and least-complicated way to ensure the race could go on. He said a negative test could be an option for future races if COVID-19 continues to pose an issue for large gatherings.
Runners who donated their 2020 entry fee were given early access to sign up for the 2022 race. All other race hopefuls can sign up on Feb. 21. The half-marathon typically sells out quickly, with registration closing in as little as 10 minutes in past years.
“Absolutely the most important thing is we want everybody to have the Robie Creek experience,” Devitt said. “We want people to have that event, that rite of spring that we haven’t had for two years.”
For more information or to sign up, visit runsignup.com.