How Local Running Clubs Have Kept Members Engaged

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Running clubs have been working overtime to keep members engaged and active during the last 9 months. With no races to train for, club directors have had to get creative with virtual races, challenges, and social events. We are incredibly thankful for the comradery these local groups have fostered among our regional athletes during this difficult time. Below are a few highlights from activities running groups have launched to keep people moving.

Flatlander Ultrarunners In Chicagoland

Folks are joining online virtual events, streak challenges or posting about future events they hope to participate in.  A socially distanced “windburn” 8 hour timed run is planned at Pate Forrest Preserve in Bartlett.  Many ultras in other parts of the country are planning to proceed this spring and folks are looking forward to seeing each other there.  Planning is also underway for a beer mile, Krispy Kreme challenge and re-taste of Chicago food eating marathon challenge.

Submitted by: Mandi Florip

We have had success bringing back programs and some events within the Restore IL Guidelines since reaching Phase 4 of that plan. Our programs and events provide camaraderie and community to our runners, and we’ve been committed to doing everything we can to keep our everyone engaged in a safe way.

Things we’ve hosted since resuming in-person programming have included:

Summer Marathon Training Program www.cararuns.org/summermarathon
Summer Half-Marathon Training Program www.cararuns.org/summerhalfmarathon
‘Go Run (15 events) www.gorunchicago.org
ChiTown Miles (track meet with 150 total participants) www.cararuns.org/chitownmiles
Autumn Trail Chase 5K (trail race with 300 total participants) www.cararuns.org/autumntrailchase
Winter Marathon Training Program www.cararuns.org/wintermarathon
Winter Half-Marathon Training Program www.cararuns.org/winterhalfmarathon

For gathering capacity, we have followed the Restore IL Guideline for outdoor athletic events which have a capacity of 50 persons. However, multiple groups of 50 are permitted so long as those groups are separated by at least 30 feet and do not interact. We’ve done this at training groups by separating into smaller pace groups. At events, we’ve done this by creating roped-off corrals for separate groups and start waves. At events, participants have to report to their area upon arrival and report back to it after finishing until they go home.

For general COVID safety, our guidelines have been:

• Do not participate if you are feeling sick or ill, and or have a fever, or if you have been in contact with someone unrecovered from COVID-19.
• Persons from high-risk groups for COVID-19 complications should consult their physician before participating.
• Do not engage in traditional forms of physical contact (handshakes, high-fives, hugs, partner stretching, etc.).
• Do not engage in close group pictures/selfies.
• Do not spit or blow nose while running in the group. Must be away from others, and at least six feet away from others.
• Do not share personal items, such as hydration, energy gels, towels, etc.
• Participants must wear a mask or face covering while gathering pre- or post-run, and anytime they are within six feet of others. Runners may remove their face cover while running when they can maintain social distance.
• Participants are expected to self carry personal hydration (bottles/packs), and to use hydration stations for refill only.
• Participants may be required to exit the group temporarily or permanently should their actions not meet expectations and or they are creating risk for themselves or others.We also have adapted our hydration station plans, implementing a low contact cooler spout called the UltraSpout, not offering pre-poured cups, and redesigning our station layouts to support social distancing.

The Road Runners Club of America adopted CARA’s return to group running plans as the national framework for the RRCA’s 1,500 member clubs around the nation.

We’ve provided detailed participant expectations for all of our activities. Additionally, all of our registrations include the requirement to agree to follow safety guidelines.

Submitted by: Erika Ostrander

Precision Multisport

Training isn’t cancelled! We closed our space with the initial shut down in March, and will reopen sometime this year. In the meantime we continued weekly runs on Wednesdays; we meet for warm up and cool down, in masks.
We also continued group training via Zoom with strength and yoga, and HIIT. We also have several virtual cycling trainings during the week on the schedule. When the weather cooperates we had weekly SDLR (socially distanced long rides) on the schedule
Now we have started some virtual swim training!!!
We have been able to keep participation going while being very conservative. We even hosted a couple of in person “races” and hope to do more moving forward. We started with a virtual 5k race in the spring; then had a few small social distanced event. An unofficial triathlon, a 10 miler, as well as a fun estimation run!
When something like this happens, there is nothing else to do but pivot and go.
Submitted by: Terri Visovatti

Libertyville Running Club

In the interest of safety we have suspended organized in-person group runs since last March. We have tried to keep engagement going and motivation with our members by offering a Speedwork Bingo this past summer.

Additionally, we offered a members-only of our virtual event (Run of the Dead Elimination Run) at no charge to our members with swag rewards for those providing evidence of having completed the event virtually.

We have worked to keep some level of engagement through our group page but have definitely taking a more conservative approach than other area clubs by continuing to suspend in-person activities.

It’s been difficult as there is certainly a desire to return to normal, but we have decided to take safety as the more important action.

Submitted by: Jacqui Giuliano

Lifetime Fitness Run Club in Algonquin

When COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, all gyms across the country were forced to close. The run club out of Lifetime Fitness in Algonquin was no longer allowed to meet while the club wasn’t open. Once the state of Illinois reached Phase 3 in June, health clubs and gyms across the state were allowed to re-open. It wasn’t until August that the run club was allowed to safely meet again! However, there are rules that have to be followed:
1. The club must meet outside (prior to COVID, the club would meet inside of Lifetime behind the check in desk).
2. If you plan to run with the club, you MUST register online prior to the run.
3. Because of this, there is a limit to 15 runners per run.
4. Masks must be carried on your during a run at all times and worn anytime you are entering a building if you need water/restroom.
5. Running “distanced” is also advised. No close groups. Typically the Lifetime Fitness Run Club will run on the Prairie Trail in Algonquin (running either North or South) and it is always quite easy to separate and give room in front of or behind your neighbor while running.
As of today, we are one of the only “classes” that are still allowed to meet! Considering the state is in Phase 3, the Run Club is allowed to meet because the event occurs outside. All rules are followed at every meeting and we do our best to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy!
Submitted by: Megan Sloan
At Well-Fit Performance, we had to pivot just like most other businesses due to COVID10 pandemic restriction. The hardest blow was the inability to train together as a team and not seeing our friends as we usually do. That said, we quickly made the necessary changes and kept our member community together and in-shape. Early on, we understood that we are all in it together; therefore, we invited everyone, non-members and members, to participate in our programs. We switched 16 cycling and strength classes to virtual mode within a week. We offered a smart trainer from our cycling studio to any members who needed to support this move. Once the weather got warmer, we shifted some of our offerings outdoors. Group bike rides and runs were available a few times during the week. In addition to fitness classes, we offered zoom webinars, happy hours, and cooking classes every few weeks. We also organized a few BBQ events in our sizable parking lot while ensuring that everyone is safe during those events. Once we could go back inside, we added a limited option of in-person participation to our classes, following the city and state guidelines.  In some ways, the pandemic helped us increase our offering and reach a larger audience, creating programs we wanted to do for a long time. We can wait to go back to full normalcy practices. We hope that we can do that very soon.
Submitted by: Erika Ostrander

1 COMMENT

  1. The Chicago Flyers Track Club raced through the pandemic winning the 2020 Northern National AAU XC Championship! Finding ways to keep kids active and social while developing a passion for running, the Chicago Flyers is a track/cross country program for kids in the south and near western suburbs,

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