The inflatable Renegade Racing Series arch swayed slightly in the afternoon breeze. Music drifted out of a sound system somewhere. Under pop-up canopies, volunteers handed out the swag that goes along with endurance running events: shining medals, colorful T-shirts, water bottles and energy bars.
Under normal circumstances, in a normal year, it was the kind of scene one could find on any weekend day.
However, there were no runners, only a steady stream of cars queuing up in the Lake Forest sunshine.
In a normal year, Jonathan and Taite Pauley, owners of Renegade Racing, and their son, Emerson, would have been setting up to welcome 800 to 1,000 participants for the 39th running of the Carlsbad Triathlon.
But in the days of the coronavirus pandemic, nothing in the sports world has been normal.
Rather than preparing for a day at the races, Renegade Racing was emptying its warehouse in an event Taite dubbed “The Final Finish Line.”
In addition to wiping out the entire spring and summer seasons, and likely the rest of the year of endurance sports events, from marathons to charity walks, the coronavirus has claimed another small business.
“It’s a grieving process,” said Taite Pauley of closing the business she and her husband have nurtured for the past 15 years.
“We spent a whole week crying,” she said.
On July 3, the Pauleys released a statement on social media that read, in part: “Renegade Racing is going out of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. None of us expected just how devastating this virus would be to our country – and to many small businesses just like ours.”
Although a small Orange County business, with four full-time and two part-time employees, Renegade’s roots ran throughout the OC endurance world.
The company directed, advertised and operated about 20 events each year in Orange County such as the 8,000-participant Dino Dash in Tustin, supporting the city’s schools; Reaching for the Cure, in Irvine for the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund; and the Laguna Hills Memorial Day races. There were also Halloween and Santa Claus runs and, naturally, a Turkey Trot. Renegade also ran operations for American Heart Foundation walks and runs.
Jonathan Pauley said the first event to fold on him this year was the GO2 Foundation Run Walk in San Dimas in February.
“We set up Friday morning and the event was cancelled that afternoon,” he said.
At the time, the Pauleys thought they could weather the virus, even if it eliminated part of the lucrative spring season.
But the cascade had begun and didn’t let up.
“In late June and July, it came fast on us, and slammed us in the face,” Jonathan Pauley said. “We realized we’re not going to make it.”
The Final Finish Line was to give patrons T-shirts, medals and other swag they would have received at the race in lieu of refunds that had already been spent on permits, insurance and other costs.
Despite the sudden closing, the Pauleys said patrons have been compassionate.
An endurance athlete himself, Jonathan Pauley said race directing is about more than profit.
His first contract was with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, which he turned from a “sleepy walker,” into the group’s largest fundraiser.
“We’ve helped raise millions for charities,” he said.
The couple is not sure what’s next. They may try to keep the Renegade brand operating on a smaller scale.
Emerson Pauley, 6, said of the events: “I’m sad because I really like to go to them.”
Taite Pauley said she will miss meeting people and their stories of overcoming obstacles, of finding health and wellness through running.
“That’s our passion,” she said, “to help people reach their goals.”
Andrea Kooiman, a runner and volunteer, who helped create We Run Orange County Kids, which trains 10,000 kids a year to run road races and complete a marathon, said the pain of the loss of Renegade runs deep.
Her voice choking up, Kooiman said: “You’re not just losing a race, you’re losing a community.”
Source: Orange County Register