Organizers hopeful Covered Bridges Half Marathon can return in 2021

  • The Covered Bridges Half Marathon sold out to 2,600 registered runners in just six minutes this year. Runners set out from Suicide Six ski area on the familiar route through Pomfret, Woodstock and Hartford, Vt., Sunday, June 2, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News file photograph — James M. Patterson

  • Runners stream through Middle Covered Bridge in Woodstock, Vt., during the Covered Bridges Half Marathon on June 3, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News file photograph — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 12/7/2020 8:41:16 PM
Modified: 12/12/2020 9:26:13 PM

The first Monday night in December usually requires Mike Silverman to spend time with his computer and phone. Last Monday was unusually quiet, however.

The co-director of the Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Silverman compares the traditional registration night for the annual 13.1-mile road race between Pomfret and Quechee to watching stock market results cross a ticker tape. The roughly 2,300 spots available for open sign-ups, all divvied out online, fill quickly. Knowing he wouldn’t have to monitor activity last week, Silverman did yard work instead.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Silverman admitted last week. “Every time you refresh your screen, you see another 100 people have signed up, and usually within 10 minutes it’s done. There’s a lot of discussion between us and the registered people. Then the emails come at me.”

Silverman remains hopeful that some sort of CBHM will be held in 2021. The question is whether it’ll be in person or virtual.

CBHM organizers delayed the 2020 race for a year on March 30 because of the then-erupting coronavirus pandemic. In a phone interview last week, Silverman said officials were adamant about not having a virtual race this year, opting to plan for ’21 instead.

But it’s also apparent that the groups that benefit from the fundraising event will still need that help. The CBHM sends proceeds to the Hartford, Hartland and Woodstock recreation departments as well as more than 50 youth sports teams each year.

“Because there was no race this past year, what they’ve done is honor all registrations for people who didn’t want a refund,” Hartland recreation director John Leonard said on Monday. “The vast majority of runners will want space in next year’s race, hopefully, so that income is on hold as people are holding spaces.”

The CBHM gets off the ground every year with significant help from Upper Valley recreation departments. In return for the donations they receive, the departments assist in setting up and monitoring runner parking at the race’s start and finish points along with other tasks. Runners crossing the stripe at the Quechee polo field the last time around were greeted by Hartland Boy Scouts who handed out race T-shirts and medals, Leonard noted.

Leonard and Hartford Parks and Recreation director Scott Hausler both confirmed their departments get around $7,000 from the CBHM each year. Both use the funds for such things as scholarships, equipment purchases and running youth sports programs.

“It’s very beneficial, and we’re very grateful for it,” Hausler said on Monday. “It allows us to expand on the things we do.”

Organizers announced via their Facebook page last month that they would hold a public registration for any available 2021 slots on April 19. That follows a three-week stretch (March 29-April 18) reserved for runners who deferred their registrations when this year’s CBHM was called off to confirm them again.

The re-registration is being done to update liability releases and emergency contact information, according to the announcement. Participants who deferred or didn’t receive refunds are automatically in the group that will have to renew this spring.

Silverman’s race is nothing if not popular. He said the rescheduled event is still “99% full” thanks to the deferrals, but the possibility remains that a few precious slots for the public will open up this spring.

The decision of virtual vs. in-person won’t be made for a while as the CBHM monitors Vermont’s coronavirus travel restrictions. Either way, Silverman said it’s important to have some sort of race after having to call it off this time around.

“We all sort of felt this discomfort making this decision, but we think we made the correct decision,” Silverman said. “All we got was positive feedback from those who had registered, that we made the right decision. Keeping everybody healthy, that was the main concern.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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