Virtual running starts up in Colorado as road races and group runs are called off

Photo Credit: Chancey Bush, The Gazette

Until now, Brady Archer couldn’t tell you the last time he’s run 10 days in a row.

He’s has more time to run since the coronavirus crisis began. But there’s a downside. He’s been running all alone.

Runners across Colorado like Archer are missing something: Doing it together. And, to take it a step further, racing together.

“As runners, we like to be together and we like to suffer together and push ourselves together,” said Justin Ricks, who puts on races in Colorado Springs and Utah. “Doing it as an individual is a lot different.”

Some event organizers have opted to hold some group runs and races virtually instead of canceling in response to the coronavirus outbreak. They’re relying on social media and GPS-tracking sites like Strava to keep the events going.

Five years ago, Archer started the Colorado Brewery Running Series. About every weekend from March to December, he hosts group runs at breweries across the state.

When he realized he’d have to cancel those gatherings for the foreseeable future, he said it created a “vortex of emptiness.”

“It (the virus) created this giant gap in our calendar,” Archer said. “Along with everyone else, we watched a lot of running events get canceled.”

To fill the gap, he started a monthlong virtual running challenge. The rules are simple: The more miles you complete in April, the more prizes you get. Plus, 10% of the proceeds go directly to the Colorado COVID Relief Fund.

About 400 people have registered so far. As of Friday, they had collectively logged 9,000 miles.

“This was a a way to build a community around an event that isn’t really happening right now,” Archer said. “It’s kind of like being together without being together.”

The weekly Jack Quinn’s Running Club has gone virtual to follow social distancing guidelines and because the downtown Colorado Springs bar and restaurant is closed. So has the Colorado Marathon, set for May 3 in Fort Collins.

“As fellow runners, we understand your disappointment and we empathize with your frustrations,” marathon organizers posted online. “You’ve trained hard over the past few months and we want your training to be worth it! We can still run, just not close to each other in large groups.”

Ricks, of Mad Moose Events, has made the Rattler Trail Races and Take 5 in the Garden, both held in Colorado Springs, virtual. Participants still get bibs, medals and swag. They just run on their own and along whatever route they choose.

“As an event organizer, it’s been really hard for us as a business and as people who really enjoy being around our community,” Ricks said. “The only reason we’re hosting these is to give our community some focus and motivation to get through this.”

Ricks has a hunch runners could use some motivation.

“It’s a lot easier to quit when you’re by yourself,” Ricks said. “It’s easy to just not start.”

That’s why he started a brand new (and, yes, virtual) race called the Moose Herd Madness Virtual Race. Participants have 10 days to complete their chosen distance, from 5k to 50k, and send their results.

It’s far from the real thing, but Ricks hopes it helps runners who are craving a race.

“I know our running community is suffering right now,” he said. “We want to get them a goal to get through this thing.”

The Pikes Peak Road Runners have held a couple of virtual races, including Saturday’s Woody’s Tortoise and Hare 5k.

The small and free race had more registrants than ever at 350 people, according to race director Tim Steffens. That included participants from Alaska and Ireland logging their race times on Strava.

And for the first time, Steffens got to participate — sort of — instead of working during the race. While seeing everyone’s routes online “brings a sense of camaraderie,” it’s not the same.

“It’s definitely different not being able to run with my friends,” he said.


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