In a time of social distancing, social distance runners have found ways to band together and support each other as they lace up their shoes and log their miles under tightened health safety guidelines.
Their races have been canceled. The Boston Marathon, one of the highlights of a runner's year, was postponed to Sept. 14 from its original April 20 date. And Monday, the Lancaster Road Runners Club announced the suspension of its group runs. Despite the disruptions, runners have found ways to maintain their mileage and supplement the socialization.
"I post daily to our Facebook page," LRRC co-president Jason Logue wrote in an email, "words of encouragement and humor. We want to make sure we are all OK and check if anyone needs anything. No one should feel alone, and I want to keep the sense of community strong."
Messages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, have called for a cancellation of mass gatherings to combat the spread of COVID-19, but they have also encouraged individuals to go outside, suggesting walks and runs while staying at least 6 feet away from each other.
"It's my stress reliever," wrote LRRC publicity director and co-fun run coordinator Kathi Markley. "It's time to spend with my husband, We met thru LRRC. We try to run daily, even if it's just a mile or 2."
The Markleys and other LRRC members can log their times and distances in Strava, an app for runners. Through the app, group members can also set personal-record goals and compare times on specific routes.
While the informal racing helps runners stay motivated, the postponement of official races could pose future challenges for runners and event organizers.
"Postponing a race until later in the year has consequences," Logue wrote, "due to the fact that there are already so many races planned out throughout the year. Where do you fit them in? I know I plan my calendar almost a year out."
Other events, such as the March 14 Run4Luck race held by the Junior League of Lancaster, morphed into virtual races, which allow runners to record their times and submit them to race directors.
with 217 members of varying ages and abilities, the LRRC also suspended all of the its club-sponsored events, including group runs, until further notice. Open to members and non-members, the club's Sunday morning trail runs, Tuesday night road runs and Thursday night trail runs, drew 20-30 runners per outing on average, with more expected as the weather warmed. Aside from the exercise, the outings also featured a coffee tailgate or a trip to a local restaurant.
"You look forward to hanging out after the run," Logue wrote, " to share a beer, grab a bite to eat and talk about running. When you're trying to run alone, there is little motivation and no one to hold you accountable except yourself. Getting out by yourself and being motivated to run alone can be very challenging."
Logging runs into an app and connecting through social media to share positive messages, movie and book recommendations, has helped the running community stoke the flames of its shared passion. So, too, does looking forward to social runs whenever the social distancing guidelines relax.
"Some of us are plotting the next big run after this all 'runs' its course," Logue wrote, "and life gets back to normal."