How Sunderland City Runs can go ahead and the new rules to follow

With lockdown rules continuing to ease, it was confirmed that the Sunderland City Runs are to make a return this summer for the first time since the pandemic.

Scheduled to be held in June, the Sunderland City Runs will have a number of safety measures in place to make sure the event is Covid -secure.

Steve Cram, organiser of Events Of The North, said he was “thrilled” to confirm the runs could go ahead following talks with Sunderland Council as well as Public Health England and emergency services.

He said: “We are thrilled to be in a position to press ahead with planning for a very special weekend in Sunderland.

“Of course, we will continue to monitor the local and national situation closely and understand that any changes to regulations will have to be adhered to.

“However, working with Sunderland City Council, we have put in a huge effort behind the scenes to adapt the Sunderland City Runs and we are all confident that we can deliver a brilliant weekend of races in June.”

Gerry Taylor, the council’s director of public health, agreed, saying: “We welcome being able to plan for the return of events to our city, and particularly those that support individuals’ health and wellbeing.”

To help get people prepared, Steve Cram has answered a number of key questions about how the race will go ahead and what rules runners will need to follow.

How many people are taking part?

We expect to welcome 4,000 runners over the two days of events. We’ve agreed a maximum capacity of 700 for the 5K on the Saturday and 3,300 for the 10K and half marathon combined, as both use the same start/finish and some of the same route.

Over the years, the support of spectators has been a big part of the Sunderland City Runs, but in these exceptional circumstances, we are asking friends, family and residents to stay away from the area and follow the progress of the races via our live stream online.

Will runners/spectators have to wear a mask?

No, mask-wearing isn’t compulsory but we do mention in the pre-event race guide that runners should consider wearing face coverings before and after their race.

We’re following the latest government Covid guidelines and the Run Britain race protocols, passed down to the governing body from the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport.

We are recommending that runners travel alone and not with spectators or supporters. There will be a high-quality live stream of the event on Sunday 20 June, so people can tune in online to see their loved ones across the start line and at the finish.

On the Saturday, we will have regular social media updates on all the event channels, keeping people updated about race progress and results.

How will runners be kept apart?

We will be operating a dynamic start system for all events. Runners will receive their colour-coded race number in the post two weeks prior to the event, along with specific leaflets (relevant to their race) which detail a code of conduct, including Covid measures that runners must adhere to.

In addition, 10 days before race day, runners will receive a follow-up email with their exact wave starting times and an update on Covid protocols in line with government guidance at that time.

At the event, runners will enter the race assembly according to their wave time (225 in each wave) and they will be asked to maintain social distancing as they move through the sector (there’s ample space allowing for 4msq per person in each sector). They will slowly walk into the next sector, freeing the sector behind them for the next wave.

Steve Cram is a long-term supporter of the East Durham Community Athletics Track project
Steve Cram is a long-term supporter of the East Durham Community Athletics Track project

As they progress through each of the start sectors, they will be asked to maintain social-distancing, and to keep moving unless told to do otherwise by race officials.

Each runner will advance through three sectors of the 5K start and five of the 10K and half marathon, over approximately 500m, before entering the final start sector. Once runners reach the start line, participants will be allowed to cross the start line and begin their race.

Runners will be set off every three seconds in a line of six for the 5K and a line of five for the 10K and half marathon. This will mean 38 wave starts in the 5K and 40 in the 10K/half marathon.

This will allow for social distancing to remain on the course, giving runners room to pass. Position points will be spray-painted on the road surface as dots in the final start sectors.

There will be toilets located throughout the start sectors and elsewhere close to the start/finish line for competitors, but there will be no baggage facility provided.

Sadly, this year, there will be no runners’ village in Keel Square or related activities to the event, and all runners will be encouraged to disperse and leave the area as soon as they have finished.

Onlookers and pedestrians passing on the street will undoubtedly stop to spectate in some areas, and we will have marshals asking people to maintain social distancing where appropriate.

The start/finish and water station areas which are manned by event marshals will be kept clear of anyone not working or taking part in the event at all times.

Water stations will be supervised by marshals but there will be no handling of drinks. All sealed bottles will have been placed on tables by event crew in advance of volunteers arriving at their stations. Tables will be easily accessible for passing runners, who will be required to pick up their own water.

The primary finish area will host the main medical field. It will also house the electronic timing system and in the event of warm weather, an initial water distribution point.

Marshals will be employed to keep runners moving through the primary area towards the secondary finish.

Runners will be expected to walk through secondary finish, picking up a sealed water unit, and a pre-packed goody bag (including medal, t-shirt etc.) from pre laid out tables, ensuring no contact with volunteers and marshals.

Will there be sanitising stations?

We’ll have sanitising points at any information desks close to the start/finish, where we envisage touch points and at the water stations and secondary finish area, but we won’t be installing any other temporary sanitation points.

We’re asking runners to look after themselves and be respectful in bringing their own.

How will finishers collect their medals etc?

Pedestrian barriers will be placed to guide runners from the primary finish area towards the secondary finish and marshals will be on hand to direct runners through the secondary finish, where they will collect a sealed water unit and their pre-packed goody bag, which will include a medal and t-shirt.

The bags will be laid out on tables, ensuring no contact with volunteers and marshals. Lanes will be in operation in rotation to allow for replenishment, and our volunteers will do that with water and bags as required from a central zone.

There will also be a designated overflow area within the secondary finish zone in case of build-up or queuing.

Toilets will be available outside of the secondary finish areas (the same location as for the start) and available on rotation after cleaning.

Finally, marshals will help move runners through the secondary finish to an exit onto Livingstone Road, and then to disperse.

Clearly, this is not how we would normally manage the Sunderland City Runs, but our team has worked incredibly hard in partnership with Sunderland City Council so that we can safely deliver the first post-lockdown mass participation sports event in our region.

On paper, there’s a lot of information for runners to take in, but our team will make sure that everything is easy to follow on 19 and 20 June, and we’re really excited about the return to city centre racing here in Sunderland.

The Sunderland City 5K will take place on Saturday, June 19 followed by the choice of Sunderland City 10K or half-marathon on Sunday, June 20.

Those interested in booking a place on a run can do so here. Any queries about rolled-over entries from last year can be emailed to

Chronicle Live – Sunderland