February 19

2021 Saguaro Half Marathon Important Updates


3/2/21 - UPDATE 3: There is light! We received word from the Pima County Health Department that our event has been approved with an increased daily participant cap. The health department states that, “based on current public health metrics, the event can be approved with a maximum of 500 runners per day, with the possibility of increasing to 800 runners based on a continued decrease of COVID-19 cases.” This is progress.

Case numbers in Pima County have been declining since early January. Based on our conversation with the health department, we are confident that this continued decline will allow our event cap to be raised to 800 runners per day. 

If the cap is raised to 800, our current registration numbers will allow us to hold the event over two days. We have discussed this option with Pima County, the Department of Transportation, and the Health Department, and we have the approval to hold the over over two days if circumstances allow it. If the event cap is not raised, and we are restricted to 500 runners per day, it will not be possible for us to hold the event and we will have to cancel. 

We are expecting and planning for this increase to 800 runners per day, and thus are planning a two day event. This means the Saguaro Half Marathon will be held on Saturday March 27 and Sunday March 28.

What should we expect at the event? 

We have spent the last 10 months putting on COVID compliant events in the middle of a pandemic. We have adopted best practices that allow us to hold safe and responsible events. That said, Pima County is still on high alert and it is thanks to our team’s hard work, problem solving, and the county’s willingness to solve problems that we are allowed to hold this event at all. Participants should expect very tight and extremely diligent COVID precautions. 

  • Staggered starts will be strictly enforced.
  • Waves will be strictly enforced.
  • Social distancing and face coverings when not running will be strictly enforced.
  • Spectators will not be allowed.
  • Other precautions will also be in effect: drive-thru bib pick-up, limited vendor expo, hands free water stations, etc.

Although we are splitting the event up over two days, we will combine results over the two days to calculate awards and overall finishing position. The event will effectively be identical on Saturday and Sunday. Age group awards will be based on chip time between the two days. Those competing for team awards can have teammates run on different days and still have their time count towards their team score. Overall awards will be based on “gun time.” Gun time runners on Saturday will compete against gun time runners who race on Sunday. 

There will be one bib pick-up and expo day on Friday March 26. Bib pick-up without the expo will be available at the start line on both Saturday and Sunday morning. 

More details about all of these changes will be coming soon.

How will we decide which runners participate on which day?

We will set a cap for each day and then allow runners to choose which day they can run. Based on feedback we collected from runners, we think participants will divide into the two days naturally. We are counting on those who expressed they had the flexibility and could run on either day to choose the Sunday option. We think *most* participants will be able to choose the day that works for them if those who are able to run on Sunday select it as their running day.

How do we select our day?

We have created an “add-on” question to your registration. On Thursday, March 4 at 6:00 am MST this option will be available. At that time, you may login to your RunSignup account and edit your registration to select the add-on. Instructions, along with a video demonstrating how to do this on a desktop computer as well as a mobile device, are at the end of today’s post.

Selecting Your Day

  1. Sign In to  RunSIgnUp
  2. Go to your Profile
  3. Click My Registered Races
  4. Click Manage Registration next to Saguaro Half Marathon
  5. Click on the Add-Ons button from the menu options
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the add-ons where you will see Choose Your Race Day!
  7. Select Saturday 3/27 or Sunday 3/28 as your race day

Video walk-through on Desktop.

Video walk-through on Mobile.

Note: If you are unable to access your registration it’s likely one of two reasons: 1) someone else registered for you creating a sub-account, or 2) you have multiple RunSignup accounts. 

  1. You can either have the person who registered you manage your registration (they will follow the same log in instructions but will see all sub-accounts below their profile information and can manage by clicking on your name), or you can claim your own registration by following these instructions.
  2. You will need to log in to your registration using the email address used when registering. If you have used multiple email addresses within RunSignup and want to combine them, follow these instructions.

What happens if the day I want is full?

In the unlikely event that you don’t get your preferred race day, you have three options:

  1. You can defer your race registration to the 2022 Saguaro Half Marathon or any of our other races.
  2. Complete the race virtually! You can run this race virtually, receiving your bib, race shirt, and medal in the mail. We will also issue you a $50 race credit you can use (or gift to someone) on any of our future events. The race credit is good for two years.
  3. Get a full refund. Our refund deadline was January 31st, but we have reactivated the refund option given the current circumstances. The new deadline for requesting a refund is Monday, March 8th. You will receive a full refund minus a small processing fee.

What will happen if the daily participant cap does not increase to 800?

If the cap is not increased to 800 per day, we will have no choice but to cancel the event. In the event of a cancellation, we will not offer refunds but we will defer registration fees to the 2022 Saguaro Half Marathon (or to a different race in our series of your choosing). 

What if I don’t like all this uncertainty?

We get it. This is a big ask and unprecedented for us. If you are uncomfortable with any of this: the possibility of cancellation, not getting a refund if the event is cancelled, your own concerns with travel/participating due to COVID, etc., then we invite you to cancel your registration for this year. You have the same three options we mentioned earlier: defer, participate virtually, or get a refund (refunds will not be available after March 8).

How do I cancel my registration?

To cancel your 2021 Saguaro Half Marathon registration, you have three options: defer, participate virtually, or get a refund. If you choose one of these options, we will not be able to reverse the decision to allow you back into this year’s race.

A note about refunds: if you deferred into this race from a previous event or used a coupon, you are not eligible for a refund. You still have the options of deferring to next year’s race or transferring to any of our other races, but we will need to help you with that. Please email info@vacationraces.com for assistance.

- Refunds -

This is a reminder that refunds will not be available after March 8. This is a special window we have opened for those who do not get their preferred day or those who don’t like the current uncertain conditions. Even if we are forced to cancel the event because our participant cap is not increased or if the county pulls the permit for any unforeseen reasons, we will not be offering refunds.

Steps to Defer

You can defer 100% of your registration fees to the 2022 Saguaro Half Marathon or to any of our other events in the series. Here’s how:

  1. Sign In to RunSignUp
  2. Go to your Profile
  3. Click My Registered Races
  4. Click Manage Registration next to the Saguaro Half Marathon Event
  5. Click the Defer Registration menu item
  6. Click Confirm Deferral

You can stop at this step, OR if you know which race you’d like to defer to, you may continue to the next steps.

  1. Find the event you would like to defer to and click Start Transfer
  2. Complete registration for that race

Steps to Transfer to the Virtual Race

  1. Sign In to RunSignUp
  2. Go to your Profile
  3. Click My Registered Races
  4. Click Manage Registration next to the Saguaro Half Marathon Event
  5. Click the Transfer Event menu item
  6. Click Start Transfer 
  7. Select the Virtual Half Marathon option and click Continue
  8. Finish the simple Transfer Form

Once transferred, you can relax. We will send an email later with more details on how to participate, how to ensure your mailing address is correct, and how to report your time. Thanks!

Steps to Get a Refund

  1. Sign In to RunSignUp
  2. Go to your Profile
  3. Click My Registered Races
  4. Click Manage Registration next to the Saguaro Half Marathon Event
  5. Click the Request Refund menu item

Again, this is your final chance to get a refund. Refunds will not be available after March 8. This is a special window we have opened for those who do not get their preferred day or those who don’t like the current uncertain conditions. Even if we are forced to cancel the event because our participant cap is not increased or if the county pulls the permit for any unforeseen reasons, we will not be offering refunds.

One final reminder. If you deferred into this race from a previous event or used a coupon, you are not eligible for a refund. You still have the options of deferring to next year’s race or transferring to any of our other races, but we will need to help you with that. Please email info@vacationraces.com for assistance.

2/26/21 - UPDATE 2: Hi all! We want to let you know where we are at with the Saguaro Half Marathon. We have an open line of communication with Pima County and the Health Department, and following our conversation with them last week, we still don’t have a definitive answer from their team. They have been incredibly helpful and we know they are continuously evaluating case numbers to ensure the safety of the community.

While we do not have a definitive answer, we have an idea of what may happen. Based on our positive conversations to date, we think the county may raise the cap for outdoor events so that we can host the Saguaro Half over two days. Please see our update below to read what a two-day event may look like. This is the most likely case, but we will hope for our normal set-up of hosting the race on one day.

If we offer a two-day race, the race would be held on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 - 28. Runners will be able to select their preferred day. However they are not able to select their day at this time. We will send further details on how to make this selection when we have confirmation that this will be the format of the event.

We believe this decision will continue to evolve on a week-by-week basis. We know this can be frustrating for scheduling your travel plans. Because of this unique situation, we are offering runners a few options:*

  1. Transfer your Saguaro 2021 registration to another race, or defer** to the 2022 Saguaro Half Marathon. Please see directions for this below.
  2. Choose our virtual race option. You still receive the contents of a normal registration pack: bib, medal, etc. In addition, you will also receive a $50 credit toward another VR event. This credit will be emailed to you afterward and is good for two years.
  3. Receive a refund. We are out of our normal refund window, but this particular situation is a special case. As such, we are opening refunds today and are offering them through Friday, March 5. Requests for a refund will close at 11:59 pm on March 5.

Should you choose to ride it out with us and then we have to cancel the event altogether (we don’t anticipate this happening), then options 2 and 3 will be available to you.

RunSignup transfer and deferral instructions:

  1. Login to RunSignup
  2. Select "My Registered Races" > Select your event > Select "Manage Registration" 
  3. If transferring, select “Transfer to Another Race.” A list of upcoming races will appear that you may transfer to. Full transfer process details can be found here
  4. If deferring, select “Defer Registration.” This is all you need to do for now. You can read about the full deferment process here. You will have the option to transfer or defer to another race. 

*If you used a coupon to register for the 2021 Saguaro Half Marathon OR you deferred into the 2021 Saguaro Half Marathon from another race, we will need to help you with these three options. Please email info@vacationraces.com for assistance.

**We do not have a date for the 2022 Saguaro Half Marathon, so if you choose to defer into this event, RunSignup will not allow you to complete deferment. However, you can still initiate the deferment process in RunSignup and complete it once we announce the dates for the 2022 event. If you choose this option, we will email you when the 2022 date is announced so you can complete this process. Thank you!

2/19/21 - UPDATE 1: Our conversation with Pima County and the Health Department on Wed (2/17) was very positive, but it was not definitive. Our conversation is ongoing. Our modified operation plan (COVID precautions and staggered starts), with the exception of a few adjustments, seemed agreeable. However, they are concerned with the number of participants in one day. Let me back up and provide a little bit of context.

We first scouted the trails and course back in August of 2020. We had our initial conversations with Visit Tucson and Pima County in September. At the time, COVID cases were low and the future was uncertain. So the county was understandably cautious, but also very encouraging of the event. We had enough confidence in our ability to work with the County and based on those initial conversations began making solid plans for an event in 2021. We made a second trip down to Tucson in November to solidify our course, meet with Tucson Mountain Park and Pima County to discuss more seriously the possibility of the race and the necessary steps to permit the event. Securing the venue and getting approval on the course, we launched registration, submitted our permit application, and awaited final review. More or less the same process as other races. At this time COVID cases had increased, but there was still the general level of uncertainty - nothing to suggest what was coming.

In January our application came under review by the Health Department. This happened to coincide with a huge spike in COVID cases. Our permit was being reviewed at the exact time new daily case counts were climaxing. Pima County wasn’t just the highest in the state of Arizona or even just the United States! So it was very bad timing. 

Initially, the Health Department responded with some restrictions we would be unable to meet. Specifically a daily limit of only 300 participants. This was unexpected. We have been doing races in various states and counties around the United States. The bar is constantly moved as circumstances change and as different locations take different approaches, but this restriction was not on our radar. We immediately cut off registration, abruptly calling the event SOLD OUT. No matter what the outcome of the next couple months would be, we couldn’t take any more registrations. A daily limit of 300 runners would have been impossible for us to comply with. So we approached the County and asked for a meeting with the Health Department to go over things.

That brings us to our meeting on Wednesday. The County has been very engaged in this process from the very beginning. They are supportive of the event and have been a delight to work with. The conversation with the health department was also very encouraging. These wonderful people have the Herculean task of analyzing data, researching medical journals and professional recommendations, keeping the safety of their community as their number one priority while also trying to protect their emotional and economical well being… all while being subjected to loud voices and opinions of peers, neighbors, businesses, and people trying to put on a Half Marathon. I do not envy their task. Our race is a small piece in a big puzzle they are trying to solve. But, it is an important piece!

Cases in Pima County are dramatically decreasing. The County is coming from a place of “we want to get to YES”. Which is awesome! However, they don’t have a crystal ball and are uncomfortable approving something TODAY based on what they think/hope conditions will be like in 5 weeks, which we get. This is the uncertainty we have been talking about in blogs and emails! This is the world we live in. Last year when we first had to start cancelling races, we set a 35-day deadline - 35 days before the race we would make an official decision on cancelation. We wanted to give the races as much of a fighting chance to happen as we could. However, back then it seemed like as each day passed that chance lessened. In this instance, we feel that with each day that passes, our chances of being able to hold this event the way we want to (at least close to it) increase!

So, what does that mean? The health department is currently discussing internally what they are comfortable approving and what that timeline looks like. We are discussing internally what our worst-case scenario is where we still hold the race. From where I sit, I see three likely outcomes:

  1. Best Case: COVID numbers continue to dramatically decrease and Pima County is comfortable approving an event of our size - with necessary COVID precautions and staggered start times.
  2. Most Likely Case: COVID numbers continue to decrease, but not dramatically or quickly enough. The health department approves a larger daily participant limit, but it still caps participants at a number under what we have registered. In this case, we would hold the event TWO days back to back (more on this below).
  3. Worst Case: The health department doesn’t increase the daily participant limit and we are forced to cancel the race - deferring everyone’s registration to 2022 (or a different race in our series).

“Whoa! Two days? That’s not what I signed up for!” We know. But we are prepared to hold the race back-to-back days if necessary - and probably lose a lot of money in the process. But we want to make this race happen. We appreciate that the County is willing to come to the table and give us a seat there to discuss this and work to make it happen. Remember, these discussions are ongoing. We might not know until a couple weeks before the race which way it will go. Before we finalize anything, we want to collect some information from you our runners. This will help us make a more solid plan. 

What we will *likely* end up doing is remain in this holding pattern for a few more weeks. At that time we will have a better view of what modifications we need to make to our plan. This might put some of you in a tight spot. Consider this your warning. Although we aren’t asking you to finalize your plans with US yet, if this uncertainty has got you nervous - now is the time to make any changes to travel plans.

If you’re still with us, here is what we will do. Once we get our bearings we will send out more communication - watch for a follow-up from us next Friday. We will not know until a couple weeks before the event if it will be one day (Saturday) or two. If your plans do not allow you to be that flexible - we understand. In the event that we can hold the race but you will be unable to attend because of these changes or this uncertainty, we will probably offer a few options: a) virtual option + $50 future race credit or b) the option of a refund (minus processing fees). Of course, runners can also defer 100% of their race entry at any point - which is our normal policy. Per our normal COVID policy, if we have to cancel we will not be offering refunds but we will defer everyone’s registration. But you don’t need to do anything just yet! Hang tight, fill out our survey, and we will update everyone soon. 

I know… this is crazy. More than should ever be asked of you as a runner or customer. But trust us, it’s worth it. If you’re in a position to be flexible… we will all be together soon running in the shadows of the massive Saguaro among the peace and beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

Thank you,
Dehn Craig & Lyle Anderson
2021 Saguaro Half Marathon Event Directors

-- Dehn will host a Facebook Live about these updates this afternoon (2/19/2021) at 5pm MST on the main Vacation Races Facebook page. If you can't catch the live stream, don't worry. It will be available to watch from start to finish once the live stream has ended. --


Half Marathons, Saguaro, Updates

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