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Bouncing back from a challenging season for events

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With events permitted to take place across England, we spoke to Kelly Wickens, Event Director at Challenging Events, about her experience of lockdown and the safe return of triathlon.

“When Boris Johnson made his announcement back in March, we never could have imagined what has actually unfolded,” Wickens said. “Our first event of the season was six weeks or so away and, at the time, we closed entries to all events but didn’t think they’d be under threat of taking place.

“Ever the optimist, I was still confident we’d get a good event season, however, as the three-week lockdowns were extended and the suspension on triathlon activity continued, we realised that the effect on the event season would be harsh.”

With the suspension on organised triathlon activity in place, Challenging Events set up a Facebook group to help support participants through the lockdown with home-workouts and challenges to complete whilst in lockdown.

“We knew that all events had gone and likely motivation to train with them,” commented Wickens. “We had 400 people joined in the first week and we ran a virtual session every day for seven weeks.”

British Triathlon have supported event organisers throughout lockdown and in the return to events, something which Wickens was impressed by and grateful to receive.

“The team at British Triathlon have been fantastic throughout,” she said. “They’ve been forward thinking and have shown real care in helping to keep the sport going and bring it back. Their support in helping us to get back to events was great, especially after losing six. Feedback we’ve had from councils and safety advisory groups was incredibly positive of the guidance British Triathlon have given to us to follow.”

Since 25 July, events in England have been able to resume providing they’re being run in a Covid-19 Secure way, with only events demonstrating they can do this and having appropriate safety documentation being issued with a permit to hold the event by British Triathlon.

“Interest in events was huge,” Wickens added. “People were so keen to take part again that we had a waiting list of around 150 people for our first event back. If we hadn’t of had to reduce the field to be Covid-19 Secure, we would easily have beaten last year’s number of entries.”

With the green light to run events, Wickens ensured that, every step of the way, stakeholders were kept informed and that participants, volunteers, staff and the general public would be kept safe throughout their events.

“Our relationship with the local communities that our events take place in is crucial to them being successful,” she commented. “As soon as we knew which events would be happening, I was on the phone and sending revised risk assessments out to make sure that all the permissions we’d received were still valid and that we could go ahead.

“Bournemouth Council were so helpful in getting the event on for what was the first event they’d allowed since the beginning of lockdown, and feedback from the public was really positive and welcoming, with a lot of interest in what was going on.”

The Bournemouth International Triathlon has been a mainstay on the triathlon calendar for the best part of thirty years, with 2020 proving to be just as exciting.

“The whole event ran like a military operation with the flow of the event,” Wickens said. “The marshals were superb and key to the event taking place; the participants did everything that was expected of them in following the extra rules; and even the weather played ball!

“We’ve received great feedback from participants and a number have told us that they actually really enjoyed the time-trial, individual start and having more space in transition.

“The vibe at the event was stunning because people hadn’t seen each other and there was such a relief to be back. We adapted our systems for all the Covid measures and have actually learned a lot whilst always making sure we had a sense of fun surrounding the events.”

The next event for Wickens and the Challenging Events team is the Southampton Fast Twitch Triathlon on 27 September. You can find this and more events taking place in the South of England on the British Triathlon Event Search.

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