As one of the few running events in the country to go ahead this year, organisers of the Stromlo Running Festival are breathing a sigh of relief that their event is ready and set to go this weekend.
The Canberra Marathon Festival, City to Surf and the Sydney Marathon are among the iconic events that were hit by COVID-19 despite huge efforts to adjust for pandemic restrictions.
Founded in 2009 by a group that included Australia’s marathon great Rob De Castella and the YMCA of Canberra Runners Club in memory of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the Stromlo Running Festival (SRF) is an annual trail running event that celebrates the strength, resilience, and courage of our community. It’s these qualities that SRF Race Director Mel Bingley said she has channelled to get the event an official exemption from the ACT Government to host 1,800 participants in the sold-out event.
“I was so determined to get this across the line. With lockdowns and restrictions this year, running has been a comfort to so many and provided connection and unity despite the enforced distancing. We really wanted to host this event for our running community,” Mel said.
This year’s modified event will run over two days with the 50 km and 30 km events on Saturday, and the 10 km event on Sunday.
“SRF is an opportunity for runners of all abilities to rise to the challenge of taking on some of Canberra’s most scenic trails and coming together with the community to celebrate our collective strength,” Mel explained.
In 2003, the entire forest was destroyed in the bushfires that also claimed the lives of four Canberrans. Rob was one of the 500 families who lost everything in those fires and was a key member on the ACT Government’s Bushfire Recovery Taskforce.
Stromlo Forest Park was one of his ideas, to not just replace what had been lost, but to make it better and leave a legacy for future generations. Since then, Stromlo Forest Park has become one of Australia’s best and most sought-after dedicated off-road running and cycling venues.
Event organisers made a number of changes to ensure SRF was COVID-safe and compliant, including starting in groups of 100 separated by 20-30 minutes, separate start finish lines, one-way traffic flow, comprehensive pre-event and entry point health screening, sanitisation stations, COVID marshals, on-site cleaners, and ensuring participants are registered with the Check-In CBR App to easily and safely record participant attendance with ACT Health for contact tracing purposes.
“We worked closely with the ACT Government and our venue partners using the Event Protocol framework to organise the event. We have a very comprehensive COVID Safety Plan and Risk Management Plan in place to ensure the health and safety of runners and the event team,” Mel said.
SRF also continues its long and proud history supporting the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF), a health promotion charity which uses running to instil pride, celebrate Indigenous resilience and achievement, and create inspirational Indigenous leaders.
“IMF celebrates our Indigenous resilience, commitment and determination and there is no better way to demonstrate this than through SRF. It also showcases our Canberra community’s resilience post the 2003 fires. Only together can we move forward. Both IMF and SRF are committed to this end,” SRF co-owner and director of IMF Rob de Castella said.
The 2020 event will donate $5,000 in participant donations collected this year.
Due to covid-19 restrictions, SRF is a spectator-free event this year. For detailed information see the Event Guide.