Decatur runners say pandemic not stopping them from pursuit they love
DECATUR — Decatur resident Susan Burke, 63, began running 10 years ago.
She wasn’t about to have a pandemic stop her progress.
Burke has experienced a positive outcome from new opportunities in running. “I think people are racking up more miles now than before,” she said. “We have time to train and it’s easy to social distance.”
Burke has kept her two running partners. She also takes advantage of programs offered by the athletic retail store Fleet Feet. She is a member of the Decatur Running Club. She has also run with a group on Tuesday evenings. “And I run by myself sometimes and my granddaughters too,” she said.
Personal trainer Tracy Hewitt does what she can to stay fit as well as motivate clients and anyone who needs encouragement. One of her creations, a free program designed to turn people into runners called Learn to Run, has been put on hold. “Some nights we had 60, 70, 80 people,” she said.
Instead she uses other motivational tools, such as Fleet Feet’s Running is Not Cancelled.
According to the exercise enthusiast, runners are social creatures. “We love being in groups, supporting each other,” Hewitt said. “The next best thing to being able to run next to your running partner is to have all of these virtual partners.”
Heather Dodson, manager of the Decatur Fleet Feet, said the Running is Not Cancelled is more of a movement than a specific event.
“Several Fleet Feet stores across the nation have created local Facebook groups encouraging customers and community members to continue to engage in exercising while social distancing throughout this time,” she said. “It’s a fun place to share photos of running and walking and spending time exploring.”
The Running in Not Cancelled Facebook page has posts of encouragement and motivation as well as some of the struggles many runners face. “It allows all of us to interact with each other and cheer each other on, and see how training is for other people,” Hewitt said. “Without having to physically be next to someone.”
The progress can be viewed by several runners at one time, even those who are not nearby. Hewitt’s running partner lives in Champaign. “We’ve become better friends, because we would never have been able to meet up anyway,” she said.
The running community has been trying various opportunities to keep the activity social. The Decatur Running Club is another support group. The Facebook page also provides information on virtual races.
Theresa Himmelrick, 46, has been a runner for 15 years. On any day, she can be found at a Decatur park running with her running partners. They often communicate through the DRC Facebook page.
She was found one evening preparing for a run at Nelson Park with Stu Young and Jeff Buckley. “Everybody in the running community, we have our own little groups that we run with,” Himmelrick said.
When he is out running, Buckley, 59, said he has other concerns besides the coronavirus. “I’m just nervous of getting hit by a car,” he said.
The small group talks about races they have signed up for and the virtual races they have completed. During a virtual race, the hosts allow the runners to compete during specific dates. Himmelrick and her group recently ran a race at Allerton Park in Monticello. They provided the race officials their date, time and distance through a picture of their GPS watches. “They just gave us our medals,” she said.
Although they appreciate the opportunity to run a race, the group admits they would rather run with others. “With all the people around, you run faster,” Buckley said.
“It’s the motivation,” Himmelrick said.
Beginners are encouraged to begin during this time of isolation. Buckley recommends joining one of the online running groups. “They can find small groups that run their own pace to help them achieve the goals that they want,” he said. “You can also find where others are running.”
“They can meet some friends to run with,” Himmelrick said.
Young, 55, began running three year ago through a similar opportunity. “My first run was with Fleet Feet’s Fun Run on Monday nights,” he said. “Everybody was so friendly and so nice and motivating. That got me right there.”
In just a few years, Young has completed 5K and 10K runs as well as a half-marathon.
Burke continues to run as much as she can with her running partners, keeping social distance. “I don’t get that close to people,” she said. “People automatically move to the side and away from each other.”
The move may appear rude, but Burke said runners are cordial to one another. “People still greet each other and are pleasant,” she said.
She said she has racked up more miles in the past two months than she had previously. “We are off work. We have the time,” Burke said. “All of the races have been canceled, but we are still running.”
Summer Tuesday Runs at Fairview Park
Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR