An online running group formed by 23rd Veteran, a nonprofit geared towards getting veterans out of isolation, is helping runners feel more connected to their hobby.
“When the social distancing started we saw the running community suffering from isolation,” said Mike Waldron, a former Marine who is the founder and director of 23rd Veteran. “There were a lot of people who were upset their races were being canceled. They weren’t training the way they should have been training, and we felt like we could help.”
What makes the Facebook group #RUNTHEVIRUS so appealing?
“The human contact,” said Mink Price, clinical supervisor for the Substance Abuse Program on Marine Corps Air Station New River, who joined the group after seeing a recommendation on her feed. “I don’t even think I knew how crucial that was to my life until I didn’t have it.”
The group has grown to over 1,400 members since starting in April with 10 teams that are connected globally.
On June 20, #RUNTHEVIRUS held a live virtual race, but it’s Relay Games are a major draw. During a Relay Game teams compete to see which team can log the most miles within a non-stopped three or four day period.
According to Price, the key to the relays is scheduling times when runners know when to “take the baton” by responding to a post and beginning their run. The teams that can pass the baton without lapses have the best chance to win, though what makes #RUNTHEVIRUS so special for its members is the sense of community and the interaction.
“It’s been uplifting,” said Price, who serves as captain of Team Phantoms. “The camaraderie is so much fun. The cheering for one another, the congratulating people on maybe running their longest run ever, their fastest 5k, whatever personal record they set or even if it’s just walking.”
In addition to supporting the running community, #RUNTHEVIRUS sheds light on 23rd Veteran’s mission to aid veteran health.
“Knowing that I’m partnered in my heart with a really good organization that comes from a long line of veterans and cares about veteran mental health and physical health - that’s a win-win,” Mink said.
23rd Veteran is based in Minnesota and operates mainly on funds from in person events. Its next in person event will be the Nearly Naked Ruck March in Philadelphia, Nov. 7.