Marathon officials make runners wear masks

Runners in this weekend’s San Francisco Marathon will need to carry some additional weight, or else they risk having lighter pockets afterward.

Participants in four races must wear masks on some portions of the course, race officials announced in updates to the race’s health protocols over the last two weeks. Stretches of Sunday’s marathon, half marathon and 10K races, as well as all of Saturday’s 5K, are in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area run by the National Park Service, and the agency announced last month masks are required indoors and in “crowded outdoor spaces” on park property amid the COVID-19 delta variant‘s nationwide spread.

Runners who don’t wear masks could be fined by the National Park Service or face disqualification, race officials said. The National Park Service has said visitors who violate the mask requirement on its properties “may be subject to citations as appropriate.”

Julian Espinoza, Public Affairs Specialist with Golden Gate National Recreation Area, told KCBS Radio in an email that the event organizers are responsible for mask enforcement.

Kyle Meyers, Production Director for the San Francisco Marathon, told KCBS Radio’s Eric Brooks runners won’t immediately be pulled from the course, but they could be disqualified if officials get word they weren’t wearing a mask.

“(Those portions) are significantly more congested than the roadways around San Francisco, so we’re just doing our part to help mitigate any transmission,” Meyers said of the race sections on National Park Service property. “We’ll have all of our course volunteers in masks. We actually have signage for mask zones where those end.”

Meyers said he expects the San Francisco Marathon is “probably” the largest foot race in California since the state started lifting COVID-19 restrictions, and “100%” the largest with masking requirements at any point on the course.

The San Francisco Marathon had not posted about the updated mask requirement on its Twitter or Facebook pages as of press time. Meyers said race officials have continually notified runners with emails about “any changes” to race information, as well as updating the race website.

Race organizers announced on the website last month runners would be required to wear masks at the starting line, strongly encouraging them to wear masks at the finish line and in areas where people congregate before and after the race. Runners are required to be vaccinated if they are picking up their race packet inside of the Sports Basement’s Presidio location, while non-vaccinated runners have to pick up their packet outdoors on Saturday and must provide a proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within 72 hours of their race.

The San Francisco Marathon’s race week health protocols first required masks for parts of the marathon, half-marathon and 10K races, all of which start and finish along the Embarcadero, in a Sept. 8 update. Meyers said race organizers waited to provide an update until then in order to see that the National Parks Service requirement would remain in place on race day.

“There’s just been so many changes,” Meyers said of evolving COVID-19 safety protocols this summer. “We try and keep up with them, but we also don’t want to make multiple changes and confuse people.”

Espinoza, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area spokesperson, told KCBS Radio in an email that the agency “greatly appreciate (organizers’) flexibility in changing the parameters of the event to meet local, state and federal public health guidance.”

The marathon goes through Fort Mason, the Presidio and along the Golden Gate Bridge, all of which are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The half marathon goes through Fort Mason and the Golden Gate Bridge in the upper Presidio, whereas the 10K only includes Fort Mason. Organizers updated the website on Tuesday to include Saturday’s 5K, the entirety of which takes place in the Presidio.

Marathon runners must wear masks for just shy of 6.7 miles, all of which occur in the first half of the race. Those runners can take off their masks at Mile 13.15, shortly after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge a second time and just shy of a half-mile into the steeper of the course’s two climbs.

Half marathon and 10K runners need to wear masks for 1.5 and 1.3 miles, respectively, outside of the start and finish lines. Each set will have to contend with small, rolling hills during their masked portions, but masks won’t be required during the largest inclines of either race.

Meyers said officials have received “pretty good buy-in from our participants” since announcing the changes.

“For the most part, people here are receptive,” Meyers said. “It’s kind of an expectation. From a conservative standpoint, San Francisco has been leading the charge on doing all things they can to keep everyone safe and protected, and we need to do our part.”

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