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Annual holiday run moved to fairgrounds site with restrictions

BOARDMAN — Mark Lipinsky has heard from his customers at Second Sole in Boardman. One after another, he could see the forlorn faces on those distance runners.

No marathons, no road races, even the Boston Marathon, originally rescheduled for September, was canceled. The COVID-19 pandemic social distanced runners from one another.

Lipinsky, who is part of Second Sole Racing, usually is part of the crew that puts on the Firecracker 4-mile before the Canfield Fourth of July Parade. That parade, like many others, was canceled this year because of the coronavirus.

The race does go on, but as the Freedom 4-miler inside the confines of the Canfield Fairgrounds. The Firecracker race usually winds through the Canfield neighborhoods.

“We have been anxious to get back out and put on a race for the community at large,” Lipinsky said. “We know with the effect of COVID and social distancing people have been out and active on their own. We felt like it was pretty important to get everyone together as safely as possible, but do it in a way where we can come together as a community, celebrate our independence and freedom, and make the most of the situation we’re in.”

Lipinsky said the Mahoning County Health Board and Canfield Fair Board gave approval for the race to be held. However, race goers must abide by the list of regulations in order to run.

“Anyone who doesn’t abide by the rules is going to be removed from the premises,” said Lipinsky, who is the assistant chronotrack timer. “We’re taking things very seriously. We know with putting on as many races as we’ve put on in the past that anybody who is going to come out is going to cooperate. We’re excited about that.”

The race is limited to 500 runners with heats starting at 6 a.m., with the last one starting at 10:30 a.m., at the south side of the Fairgrounds. Each heat has 50 runners distanced at least 6 feet apart. Runners will be chip timed.

Runners will be spread out on the course and can pass one another, still respecting the 6-feet distancing.

Lipinsky said runners will not be permitted to exit their vehicles until 15 minutes before their race.

Each runner must have their temperature checked and must answer health questions before entering the Fairgrounds.

“Anybody who doesn’t pass that screening is going to be immediately asked to stay away from everybody else and exit,” Lipinsky said. “Hopefully, everybody who is signed up and is healthy will come and have a pre-assigned number that will be 6-feet away from anyone else that they’ll find on the ground. We’ll have a socially-distanced start line. All the participants will have a mask on. Right when the race is about the start, we’ll ask the participants to remove their masks. We’ll immediately send them off on their way.”

There will be no water stops along the way, but Lipinsky hopes he can get approval for bottled water for runners on the course. Volunteers will be inside their cars with a mask on while on the course.

Runners can get a bottle of water on their way out of the facility. The course goes through the back side of the fairgrounds where people would park for the Canfield Fair. The course does not loop around. It goes one way.

Awards will be distributed at a later date.

“We’re excited to get people out and together as much as we can,” Lipinsky said.

No restrooms will be accessible.

“Make sure you go before you come to the fairgrounds,” Lipinsky said. “There’s a lot of additional work and approval that the Mahoning County Health Board wasn’t comfortable giving us at this time. We understand.”

There are no paper sign-ups in the Second Sole store as there have been in the past, and no race-day sign-up either. Everything is online at secondsoletiming.com/july-2020-races.

At that site, you will select a time to pick up your packet at Second Sole on Route 224 in Boardman. Each runner will receive a bib number and T-shirt.

There is a list of regulations on the website that each runner must follow at secondsoletiming.com/canfieldfreedom-4-miler.

“This is very cut and dry, very straightforward,” Lipinsky said. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep everyone safe and separated. We’re not going to be accepting packet pick-ups. If you don’t pick up your stuff, we’ll allow you to transfer over to the virtual option. Unless you have everything picked up at your specific time and come to the race with your bib on, you’re not going to be able to participate that day.

“We’re taking this very seriously. We’re not going to play any games or leave any question about safety or contact during this event, or leading up to the event.”

If a runner doesn’t feel safe coming on July 4 at the Fairgrounds, they can run the race virtually at the course of their choosing through July. Those interested in that option, still should sign up on the website, but select the virtual option.

The event is an attempt to bring back some normalcy for the running community.

“Having this opportunity for them is really big and we’re really excited to get out to the community and excited to see the response,” Lipinsky said. “We have runners who work here and time races who have been itching to be on the other side and provide that outlet for everyone. We’re excited to get back out and run together.”

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