Shepparton News

Virus leaves festival in the soup

- By LIAM NASH

The Campbell’s Shepparton Running Festival was set to transform the city into a mecca of pavement pounders at the weekend.

However, in a gut-wrenching twist of the knife, a COVID-19 outbreak on Friday forced organisers to cancel a day before the festivitie­s, adding it to a list reading long of events plagued by the virus.

It wasn’t as simple as locals missing their running high for the weekend.

Far from it.

Festival event manager Liz Connick conveyed the situation’s circumfere­nce, noting there was a call as tough as any to make when the confirmed cases began rolling in.

“We had athletes phoning us on the road who were halfway from Mildura, Geelong, Macedon Ranges — we were contacted from all over regional Victoria,” Connick said.

“We had to encourage those athletes to pull over and not come any further.

“When the CHO didn’t lock down regional Victoria, we knew then we had to make a decision, and hand on heart, we believed it was the right decision to cancel the event.

“Looking back it was very much the right decision.”

With the health and safety of Shepparton’s community considered paramount, a direct SMS was sent out to all entrants notifying them of the event’s cancellati­on.

Were they frustrated? Most likely.

But were they understand­ing? Absolutely.

“The support we’ve received from our runners has been what’s got us through the last couple of days, they were very appreciati­ve that we were able to communicat­e so quickly,” Connick said.

“We were devastated not just for our runners, but also our business community.

“The athletes knew they had to run, recover then leave the venue straightaw­ay which would have sent them into the community to enjoy our city.

“Even though it was going to be a different style of race and a different vibe in the event venue, everyone was still really keen to come support Shepparton.”

According to Connick, many entrants still managed to get out and run at the weekend, enjoying the magnificen­t weather which blessed the region.

Regardless, the economic loss still remains.

There is a silver lining, with Connick indicating the event sponsors all committed their support for this year and going forward, alleviatin­g financial stress placed upon Shepparton Runners’ Club.

Now, the committee’s focus switches toward offering refunds as well as rollover options for next year.

Connick even hinted at the potential of holding a virtual event.

However, for the time being she urged runners to stay vigilant and do what they do best.

“We hope everyone is staying safe and I think we’ll have to have a big party after the race next year,” Connick said.

“Getting outdoors, whether it is for a walk or a run, is so good for our mental health.

“I’m sure everyone has a pair of runners in their wardrobe; they’ll be calling out to you. Put them on and get out there.”

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