The 40th annual 300 Oaks Road Race offers an opportunity to get outside, participate in a fun and healthy activity, and enjoy the last weekend of summer 2020, all while maintaining social distance.
“It’s a great way to get out and spend a fun Saturday morning — a little camaraderie, a little team spirit,” said Beth Stevens, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce. “This is one of the most fun community events that we do. We have a lot of locals who participate in this race, and we have a lot of people from out of town who come participate, too.”
The 300 Oaks race, which marks a four-decade anniversary this year, is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and includes 10K and 5K runs, a 5K walk and a 1-mile fun run down Grand Boulevard.
“If it were a normal year, we’d have a big celebration but obviously we can’t do that this year,” said Stevens.
She added, “It’s a big milestone for us. We’re one of the three oldest road races in Mississippi.
“We’ve got a good history, not just locally but also statewide, of putting on a good quality event.”
The event will be held Saturday, Sept. 19 and features several modifications this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our COVID numbers statewide are coming down, but we want to make sure people feel good about participating in the event,” said Stevens.
All participants are encouraged to register online, which is a way to minimize contact. Online registration is open until midnight Thursday. In addition to individual races, teams of five or more people can also sign up for the 10K run or the 5K walk.
Packet pickup will be held at the Chamber of Commerce from 1 to 7 p.m. Friday. Packet pickup will also be held starting at 6:30 a.m. on the day of the race.
“We will not be doing race day registration this year,” said Stevens. “If people want to come and register on Friday during packet pickup, they can do that. But we will not be able to guarantee that they will get their shirt size.”
She added that registering online is preferred.
Along with a T-shirt and other items, all race participants will also receive “a really cool little thing that we’re putting in the goody bags this year for all of our participants to commemorate our 40th anniversary,” Stevens said.
All races will begin and end in the park between the Veterans and Keesler bridges.
All race participants will be required to maintain 6 feet of social distance, and the use of face masks is encouraged at the start and finish areas. Participants do not have to wear masks during the races. All volunteers will wear face coverings and gloves.
There will be “X” marks on the pavement 6 feet apart where participants should stand prior to the races.
“We’ll be able to lay that out at the boat ramp, so that’s not going to be a problem,” said Stevens.
Participants are discouraged from walking or running in groups.
The 10K run will begin at 8 a.m., the 5K run starts at 8:10 a.m., and the 5K walk starts at 8:15 a.m. The fun run, which will not be a color run this year, will have a new start time of 9 a.m.
For the competitive runners and walkers who may find themselves at the back of the group at the starting area, that will no longer be a disadvantage this year. The quickest time to finish the race will be accurately recorded.
“This year, we are doing the chip timing from start to finish. So as soon as you cross over that start line, your time will start. So you will not have to worry about catching up with the person way out in front of you, because we’ll be timing it from beginning to end,” said Stevens. “That’s going to be a big plus this year.”
Water stations will be different this year, too.
“Normally we have a water stop at every mile marker,” said Stevens. “This year we are only having water stops at every other mile.”
Water stations will be set up at the start and finish areas and at mile markers 1, 3 and 5.
Cups will not be provided, so participants are encouraged to bring their own water bottles. Hand sanitizer will be provided at the water stations.
“This is one way we’re trying to minimize touch points throughout the race,” said Stevens.
At the finish area, participants should move off course immediately after crossing the finish line. Bottled drinks and individual to-go burger and hot dog servings will be provided.
“We will not have any live entertainment this year just because we are not encouraging people to hang around,” said Stevens. “But we will still be doing the food and the drinks.”
The event will also not feature an awards ceremony this year.
“We’ll have an awards tent,” said Stevens. “As races finish, you come through the finish line, and you get your printout with your placing on it. You can bring that to the awards table, and you can pick up your award.”
Individual awards are given to the overall male and female in each category. Also for each race, first-, second- and third-place awards will be given to winners in different age increments. Awards will be given to the largest teams and the fastest teams in each category.
The 300 Oaks race day is set for the original date the chamber had planned for it to be held.
Following the success of the chamber’s Bikes, Blues & Bayous cycling event, which was modified to follow COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, Stevens said the chamber felt it could safely hold the road race.
“We have talked to race directors across the state,” she said. “There are starting to be in-person races now, and we’ve talked to some race organizers in some of the major cities, and they have shared their protocols with us for what they are doing. ... Races are happening, and we felt good enough about the protocols that we’ve put in place. Just talking to other race organizers, we felt quite sure that we could be able to do this successfully.”
This year, parking by race participants will not be allowed in the park between the bridges area.
“We are using part of that parking lot as a starting area to spread everybody out,” Stevens said.
Several areas to park can be found online at 300oaks.com, along with other important information Stevens recommends all participants to read before race day.
To register for the event, visit 300oaks.com.
For more information about 300 Oaks or questions about registration, call the chamber at 453-4152.
• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.