Second Sole Racing Ready for Return of Foot Races

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Distance racing before the COVID-19 pandemic meant hundreds of runners gathering at the starting line. And the gatherings before and after each race, often featuring music, food, drinks and prizes, made them social events.

The number of races were drastically scaled back during the pandemic to enforce social distancing but they are coming back this year.

As safety measures put in place are lifted,  the Second Sole Racing team of Josh Boggs and Mark Lipinsky are preparing for the return of distance runners and walkers in the Mahoning Valley. There are about 45 distance road races scheduled for 2021 with the possibility of up to 60, says Lipinsky, race director and timer for Second Sole Racing.

About 75% of those who would normally participate in these events have returned, says Boggs, timing director for Second Sole Racing. The other quarter are hesitant even with the vaccinations and safety protocols in place with each race.

“I would say probably by spring of next year I would put everything back at 100% capacity, but we’ll continually move forward through the fall to get to those numbers,” Boggs says.

This organization is based out of Second Sole in Boardman. The group times and produces local events, creates T-shirts, awards and handles everything needed to host road races — services Boggs and Lipinsky provided since 2013. Each race costs $1,000 to $1,500 to stage with three to six months of planning required, Boggs says.

Josh Boggs and Mark Lipinsky are ready for the return of races after the pandemic put a hold on in-person events last summer.

“A lot of people think because there are a lot of road races in the area that they’re fairly inexpensive,” Lipinsky says. “It definitely takes some fundraising and good participation from the community to be able to successfully raise funds for a cause or even just to hold one on its own.” 

COVID-19 pandemic restrictions limit how many racers can participate in a live event and gather at the starting line, Boggs says. Mask wearing before the race is encouraged, along with limiting spectators. Any mass gathering is discouraged.

Virtual races were the standard in the first couple months of the pandemic, allowing distance runners and walkers to use whatever means possible – driveways, treadmills, even the streets in their neighborhood – to complete races in smaller groups or by themselves before submitting their times through a website.

This virtual option will continue, but will play a smaller role this year, mainly reserved for the unvaccinated people or those with high-risk health issues, Lipinsky says.

Second Sole Racing took safety precautions and with the blessing of the Mahoning County Public Health held its first road race since the pandemic started, the Firecracker 4-Mile, at the Canfield Fairgrounds on July 4, 2020. This year, the race heads back to the streets of Canfield, instead of the nearby fairgrounds.

The race will take place July 5, starting and ending in The Green and with a limited number of participants, Boggs says. 

The Youngstown Marathon, also organized by Second Sole Racing, is scheduled for Oct. 24.

“I would expect that we’ll see a big uptick this summer in participation of people who’ve been vaccinated and are eager to get out and participate in events that they haven’t been able to do in more than a year,” Lipinsky says.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.