Fort Worth Cowtown returns with some COVID-19 changes

The 43rd Cowtown Marathon had a lot of changes this year - including the actual full-distance marathon which is only offered virtually - but the racers said they didn't feel like it was that different.

The 43rd Cowtown Marathon had a lot of changes this year – including the actual full-distance marathon which is only offered virtually – but the racers said they didn’t feel like it was that different.

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At the beginning the runners stood in line and wore bibs and equipment or for some cow outfits.

Some stretched as Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who ran the half marathon relay race, greeted them in Cowtown, a group of races that usually took place in February but were pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the national anthem, the runners were out with volunteers who cheered them on with tambourines, cowbells and maracas.

Saturday’s Cowtown felt almost like a normal running event. Nearly.

This year the race offers were limited, the routes were different, the runners stayed at least a meter apart until they crossed the starting line, which stretched through a maze of organizers. The runners started at staggered times and all participants had to put on masks until they crossed the starting line.

The biggest change: The entire marathon was held virtually, with the personally participating runners having the opportunity to run the 5 km, 10 km, half marathon and relay races.

Around 5,200 people from 43 states finished their races, 6,500 were registered.

Heidi Swartz, director of Cowtown, said the changes may have seemed strange to runners, but they were necessary to hold the race in person. It was important to the community, but it was also important to the cause they are promoting.

“We use the money from the entrance fees to provide running shoes and socks to children in need. This year we partnered with the Tarrant Area Food Bank to provide the children in the schools we attend with food supplies to take with them to the family, ”said Swartz. “Every runner who takes part virtually or in person helps with this.”

The virtual runners had the option to run alone or in groups and used an app to track their time and distance. Participants in the US and internationally have already participated, but others may be attending soon.

There were 16 people running in Paris last week, and more are expected to compete from around the world, Swartz said.

Blayne Johnson, who trained for the race with the Cowtown Trailblazers, said it felt like any other race after crossing the start line.

“The course was obviously a little different, but the training wasn’t too different,” said Johnson. “At first you think how will this work? But then you’re on the course and everyone’s running and there are people out there, you’re done and there are tons of people, ”Johnson said.

While there were no spectators at the beginning, volunteers and event staff cheered the drivers and spectators watched in small groups throughout the course.

However, the changes at the beginning were noted. Due to social distancing efforts, participants walked further and waited longer than normal.

“You all had to walk about five miles to get to that starting line, so most of you should be well warmed up,” one announcer faltered.

But Lori Buschbacher, a runner from Springtown, said the changes didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the way the event felt, and she was glad they had taken precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 prevent.

It was her first time in 10K but had competed 5K a few years ago. Her goal for the day was to have a good time and make it across the finish line.

“All that matters is that we’re done,” said Buschbacher. “It’s good to see a huge crowd come out and support it even though it’s different.”

Kids 5Ks were held at local schools this year instead of at the main event. They received shoes and, through partnering with the Tarrant Area Food Bank, nutritious food to take home for the whole family.

Unofficial results

5K men: 1, Cristian Garcia (Dallas), 16:30. 2, Matt Campbell (Dallas), 4:36 pm. 3, Raul Guerrero (Springtown), 4:54 pm

5K women: 1, Lauren Clevenger (Prosper), 8:09 pm. 2, Esperanza Lopez (Fort Worth) 8:11 pm. 3, Daniel Garcia Rodriguez (Fort Worth), 21:12

10K men: 1, Gabriel Zambrano (Fort Worth), 33:24. 2, Richard Garcia (Fort Worth), 38:13. 3, Bryan Wales (Mansfield), 38:41

10K women: 1, Ingrid Mollenkopf (Dallas), 36:51. 2, Tara Gaddis (Fort Worth), 36:56. 3, Shari Hallum (Marietta, Okla.), 44:01

Half marathon men: 1, Josh Heimbach (Fort Worth), 1:12:59. 2, Joseph Darda (Newport Beach, California) 1:13:10. 3, Brent Williams (Cypress), 1:17:06.

Women Half Marathon: 1, Elizabeth Northern (Fort Worth), 1:21:00. 2, Luciana Bartholomew (Aledo), 1:25:52. 3, Brooke Slayman (Iowa City, Iowa) 1:28:09.

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