For now, the 44th Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic is on.Barring another grim turn in the battle against the novel coronavirus, the downtown Tampa event that annually attracts thousands of runners will be held Feb. 20-21, executive director Susan Harmeling confirmed Wednesday morning.The catch: a limited field for each race, and a series of stern precautions and protocols.“If we didn’t think we could do this in a safe manner for the runners, we wouldn’t be suggesting that it could be done," Harmeling said. "And that’s why we’ve had it vetted at so many different levels. We’ve tried to cover every potential outcome with this thing.”Each of the four races (15-kilometer, 5K, 8K and half-marathon) will be limited to 5,000 participants, though 1,000 more will be allowed for the 5K (500 for Stroller Walk, 500 walkers).Each event will feature designated, socially distanced staging areas (with four lines of 125 runners each) and staggered starts, with only 32 runners crossing the starting line per minute. As a result, starting times for most runners will be later than normal.“We have the support of the city and the community," Harmeling said. "They’re going to allow us to keep the roads closed a couple more hours on the back end, to be able to accommodate everybody. Without that support, we wouldn’t be having this race.”Participants must wear masks in the staging areas before the race, and will be required to put them back on upon crossing the finish line. All runners will have their temperatures taken, and will be subject to a three-question health screening on race morning.“They’ll be asked to wear their mask for no more than 45 minutes (inside the staging area),” Harmeling said. “No more than a weekly shopping trip to Publix.”Water stations will be arranged along the course, but instead of handing runners cups of water, volunteers will set the cups on a table several feet from the course. Attendants even will be stationed in front of portable toilets (which will be positioned 8 feet apart), occupying tables with automated hand sanitizer.No spectators will be allowed at the start or finish areas, and no post-race celebrations will be staged. Even if the race is forced to convert to a virtual experience, the annual race-weekend expo still will be held at the Tampa Convention Center.Prize money still will be offered to the top local male and female finishers, with a caveat: The top 10 local finishers (each gender) from the previous year will be invited to join the first staging area at the front of the pack, and essentially will be racing one another for the purses.“Just understand that this is a fluid situation,” Harmeling said. “To get the race on the roads for the runners, they’re going to have to do their part to comply with what we’re asking them to do.”Registration details can be found at rungasparilla.com.