Pre-pandemic I would frequently travel to the US to run races. Now that the US/Canada border is officially open for discretionary (read: leisure) travel, I am excited to continue my running adventures south of the border. I am sure many of my fellow runners feel the same. Race travel has always required some degree of planning however the COVID landscape necessitates that we be more intentional and proactive in our preparation.
Here are some of the top considerations to keep in mind when planning your next US race*
*The following refers to adult travellers and the most current information at the time of publishing of this post.
1. All travellers need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The accepted COVID-19 vaccines in the US are summarized below.
Also, important to note that if you received a “mix and match” of 2 doses – Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca in any combination – and the doses were given at least 17 days apart this is considered acceptable by the CDC.
2. COVID-19 pre-entry testing requirements
The testing requirements to enter the US are pretty straightforward.
If you are crossing the land border via car, bus, boat, ferry or train a test is not required.
If you are flying into the US a negative rapid antigen taken within 72 hours of your departure will suffice. In Ontario rapid antigen tests are fairly inexpensive and readily available. Some of the locations listed below allow you to book an appointment in advance online and some do offer walk in tests based on availability. You should receive your results in less than 30 minutes.
• Costco – $16.99
• Walmart – $19.97
• Rexall – $30
• Shoppers Drug Mart – $40
Alternatively, you could opt to take a PCR test which is more accurate but also more expensive and results take can take 24 to 48 hours.
Entering Canada is where it gets a bit trickier. Canada DOES NOT accept rapid antigen tests.
If you are flying into Canada you will need to take a molecular test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of your flight to Canada. Flytrippers has written a great summary of where you can get free COVID-19 tests in the US that will be valid but here is your TL;DR summary – the ID NOW NAAT test at Walgreens is a popular no cost and rapid testing option. You can book an appointment anywhere from 3 to 7 days in advance of when you would need the appointment through their online booking system. Slots can book up quickly so you’ll want to do this ASAP, perhaps even before your departure.
If you are crossing the land border the same requirements still apply. However if it is a short trip of less than 72 hours you are allowed to do their pre-entry molecular test before they leave Canada. This policy has been criticized by both Canadian and American politicians who represent border communities, but Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam has publicly acknowledged that the policy is being “actively looked at.” As with any of the policies that have been in place throughout COVID, the landscape is rapidly evolving so check with https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid for the most recent requirements.
A Toronto-based educator, author and artist, Sylvia Duckworth, has created a concise infographic that summarizes the COVID-19 tests required for cross-border travelling.
And don’t forget. Everyone entering Canada MUST use the ArriveCAN app or website to provide mandatory travel information such as contact information, travel details, vaccine information and pre-entry test results.
3. Race considerations and logistics
Many Canadian race directors have been making it mandatory for runners to be fully vaccinated in order to participate in in-person races. While this not currently a requirement for races held in the US, several major races are already following suit. The Philadelphia Marathon and the 2022 running of the Boston Marathon are just two notable examples.
Vaccine requirements aside, you will still need to consider the potential risks you may be encountering. Throughout the US there are different rules regarding mask usage and social distancing as well as varying COVID vaccination rates and community transmission. You can refer to the CDC COVID Data Tracker for up-to-date information.
The race you are considering registering for may also outline their COVID-19 policies and the precautions they will be taking on their website. Some important questions you may want to ask yourself – How will they handle corrals and/or starting waves? Will you be able to socially distance from other participants? Will you have to wear a mask to attend the race expo, at the starting line or in the finisher’s chute? How comfortable would you feel if the race has minimal or does not have any COVID protocols in place?
It has been a long 20 months and we are now at a place in the pandemic where we can do more and more of the activities we enjoy. I think it is important for our collective mental health and wellbeing that we grant ourselves the permission to do just that, especially if we continue to take available precautions where possible. I encourage that you do as much research as you can to make an informed decision about the risks you are undertaking and when in doubt, trust your gut.