The last time Nic DeCaire and Fusion Racing hosted a race was March 7, when 4,000 people took to the streets of Old New Castle for the aTAcK Addiction 5K. A week later, the coronavirus pandemic hit, bringing DeCaire’s business, and racing in Delaware, to a grinding halt.
On Sunday, Fusion ended its six-month hiatus, easing back into racing with a 5K on the grounds of Canal Little League in Glasgow.
“We were seeing the need,” DeCaire said. “People were itching to get out and be part of something.”
Sure, running is the perfect social distancing sport, as it can be done alone and just about anywhere. However, DeCaire says, the social aspect is just as important to the racing community. That’s especially true for Fusion, which is known among its legion of dedicated followers for turning its races into events complete with themes and elaborate after-parties.
“We have to get back into it because people are ready for it,” DeCaire said.
Participation in Sunday’s race was capped at 150. The race had a staggered start to avoid crowding at the starting line. Runners were required to wear masks before and after the race, though they were permitted to take them off while running. The after-party was scaled back and held outdoors, rather than inside a restaurant.
With one race safely under his belt, DeCaire is planning a few more this fall.
“Slowly, we’ll start bringing them back,” he said.
Next on the schedule is the Sept. 12 Nun Run, an annual race that raises money for Little Sisters of the Poor, which was hit hard by the pandemic earlier this year.
Still, though, nearly 60 Fusion races were canceled or turned into virtual events this year.
“When that’s your livelihood, that’s a tough impact,” DeCaire said. “We’ve taken a big hit.”
One saving grace was the popularity of the virtual events. Participants ran on their own and submitted their times. In online forums, they participated in challenges, tracked their progress and encouraged others.
“It still raised money for charity and still got people out running,” DeCaire said. “It’s been a win-win.”
The events drew participants from around the country, and even internationally, and DeCaire said he plans to continue them even after things go back to normal.
“It brought us brand awareness outside Delaware,” he said. “A couple from Japan has been doing our races because they saw them online.”
Sunday’s race was in honor of Brian T. Feeley, a longtime running coach at Hodgson Vo-Tech, who died in 2017. The race, now in its fourth year, raises money for a scholarship in his name.
The course, which started at the Little League ball fields and snaked through an adjoining neighborhood, was one Feeley laid out decades ago for his students to practice on.
“It’s been great to see all the people come out,” said Pat Boettcher, Feeley’s son-in-law. “It’s meaningful that this is the first race back, where the community can get together, even if we’re a little farther apart.”