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With Races Shut Down Due To COVID-19 Crisis, Running Industry Racing Against The Clock To Pay Bills

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Springtime is popular for 5Ks and other athletic events that many sports-related businesses rely on. CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory looks at how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the $2 billion dollar "endurance industry."

Inside his third-generation family factory, Jason Newton gave us a shaky tour of a shaky time.

"Right now we're in the fabrication area of the business," he said. "This is usually humming right now, this is busiest part of the year for us."

In the spring his company, Sports Awards, is normally cranking out medals for its Runners High Medallions division, but races aren't happening because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Organizers have canceled or postponed 4,200 running events nationwide so far, more than 150 of those in Illinois.

"When everything kind of happened in March, early March, our sales dropped to about 20 orders. So that's about a loss of about $80,000 to $100,000," Newton said.

ENDURING THE VIRUS: how running-related business are combatting COVID-19 Here's the previous racing story I mentioned:

Posted by Lauren Victory on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Race announcer Dave Kappas posts up at 50 or 60 starting lines every year.

"It is my main source of income," he said. "There was about a 36-hour window in early March when my March and April calendars just erased themselves."

Things weren't looking good when the popular Shamrock Shuffle was canceled. That's usually the kickoff to Chicago's running season.

"I know for, as how much as I'm affected, the people who are producing these events are really scrambling to do the all the right things," Kappas said.

Like Chicago Area Runners Association executive director Greg Hipp, who explained the upfront costs of putting on a race, including T-shirts, medals, and timers.

"Essentially every dollar of those registration fees had already been accounted for, and that money no longer existed in the race's budget to provide refunds," Hipp said.

Still, CARA went against the industry standard, and offered money back for its postponed Wintrust Lakefront 10 Miler & 5K.

"This is a difficult situation for the running community, and a lot of their favorite races and favorite running related businesses are really struggling right now," Hipp said.

Back at Sports Awards, machines used to make plaques are now churning out sneeze guards, pivoting because the finish line in nowhere in sight.

Just last week, race organizers across the U.S. began to form the Endurance Sports Coalition. They plan to ask Congress for relief beyond the stimulus bill.

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