In the wake of COVID-19, engaged Long Island corporations are continuing to divert philanthropic dollars into programs, events, and institutions that strengthen our region’s quality of life. Among those efforts are a number of athletic challenges that include running races, triathlons, and endurance events that offer Long Islanders a means to break through the emotional and physical isolation that remain among the aftershocks of this spirit-crushing pandemic.
Without these events, there would be no outlet for those who dedicate themselves to a healthier lifestyle or who are committed to a vigorous training regimen. We have also seen similar races serve as motivation for racers to overcome everyday physical challenges. In addition, these programs provide a platform for amateur athletes to challenge their own personal fitness levels against high-level competition and do so on Long Island amidst some of the most scenic locations in the northeast.
Long Island corporate support for these challenges comes just in time as the operating costs for these events continue to rise and actually threaten their continued existence. That support, however, goes beyond the traditional financial calculus. Traditionally, sponsorships by the likes of Nike are leveraged from a marketing standpoint and used to help build brands or sell related products. But Long Island companies who provide financial underwriting for these events, including mine, rarely see such a rate of return. Rather, they recognize that these endurance events contribute to the public’s health and well-being. By “doing good” they are giving back.
These challenges now take place against a far larger backdrop than appealing to the dedicated few. As we face the residual effects of the pandemic, the medical community continues to recommend that individuals stay active, which can help us in many ways, including managing weight loss, preventing or even managing underlying health concerns or issues, increasing energy levels, and lowering stress and address COVID induced depression. The cumulative effect defines an individual’s wellness.
Long Island will see more of these events at the starting gate as the weather beckons more outdoor activities and state health officials continue to amend COVID protocols. That will also see adjustments be made to training and race schedules to conform with CDC protocols and guidelines, creating a very unconventional year of activity.
Tom Eickelberg, who recently became a National Champion at the 2021 USA Triathlon Off-Road National Championships said, “The pandemic definitely created challenges where I had to adjust my racing and training schedules. Having goals to strive for throughout my race schedule is what makes all of the training worth it. It’s imperative that these events continue to get the financial support they deserve which is not only important to the competitors but the local communities as well.”
While these events may be grueling for the athletes they are unique opportunities for local residents, merchants, and businesses to work together with event organizers, creating a positive sense of community while striving towards a common goal of running a successful event. Seeing that a majority of the racers are generally not from the host town, the competition provides an ideal showcase for the area while providing a welcome impact on the economy. Especially right now, when municipalities and towns are looking for creative ways to help promote commerce in their “downtown,” these races provide a much-needed built-in audience.
While corporate support is key, an equal partner in ensuring the success of competitive running is the various Long Island towns and villages whose cooperation is essential if the roads and waterways that carry the runners, swimmers, and cyclists are to be made safe for the event. Those that do recognize the personal power of running to restore the vitality of a community.
The triathlon’s return to Long Island marks a victory not just for the athlete but for the spirit of the individual to escape the long shadow of COVID. In doing so, we will all be crossing that finish line.
Principal, Engel Burman
President, EB Construction