The months of April and May usually mean area runners can start their seasons that last through the fall. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has made runners take their pursuit of medals and personal best times indoors.
The trend of virtual 5Ks is not new but has taken off with the pandemic closing down most parks and race routes. The Maple Run in Canton made the shift to a virtual format in March when shutdowns due to coronavirus were just starting. Mike Samoraj is a race director for more than a dozen races in central and northern New York and said the virtual races have been around for people that still want to take part in events.
“These virtual races have been around for a while,” Samoraj said. “They’ve typically only been an option for those who can’t make the drive, but still want to participate.”
Virtual races can be run on a treadmill, at a person’s home or any other location. The times are then submitted electronically and racers will receive their medals and shirts afterward. One of the biggest lures to try to get runners to sign up for a particular virtual race is the uniqueness of prizes.
“A virtual race has to have a catchy concept or a nice-looking medal that a runner would be attracted to,” Samoraj said.
He set up virtual races last month hoping to keep himself and other people active. Samoraj was amazed that so many people signed up to one of the recent virtual events.
“My wife guessed 100 people would sign up, but I was a little more optimistic and said 200,” Samoraj said. “I couldn’t believe it when 500 signed up for the last race.”
Samoraj also said the Thousand Islands Half Marathon and 5K that was slated for May 31 has been moved to Aug. 26. The 5K will be held on Wellesley Island while the half-marathon will have parts of it on the mainland.
The St. Lawrence University field hockey team has also hopped on the bandwagon of hosting a virtual race. The Saints will hold their event Sunday that will benefit the University’s Emergency Student Assistance Fund. The program helps out any students needing assistance with funds in trying to return home, medical fees, new technology for online classes and other housing-related expenses.
Coach Fran Grembowicz was overwhelmed by her team’s willingness to help.
“I’m very proud of them, but I’m not surprised,” Grembowicz said. “They’ve always put themselves out there and they’re doing fundraisers and community service.”
Interested participants can send the $10 registration fee, or any other donation amount, via Venmo to assistant coach Alexandra Calder at her address @Alexandra-Calder. Grembowicz said that a virtual 5K might become a yearly event that would help out the emergency fund or another charitable cause.
Grembowicz said many former players have signed up to take part in the event. She said most of the out-of-state participants are from the East Coast and states such as Ohio. However, she’s heard that one of her former players will participate from Alaska.
“I’m hoping for pictures from them,” Grembowicz said. “Hopefully it will be a beautiful day.”
Participants are encouraged to send pictures and/or videos of themselves to the field hockey team’s account on Instagram (@slufh) for a compilation of everyone running together.
Other events such as the North Country Heart Walk and The World Vision Global 6K for Water run/walk are slated to be virtual events.