In the age of COVD-19, running has become more important than ever. Gyms, fitness studios, pools, and even parks have closed to stop the spread, making running one of the most accessible fitness activities. I’ll be the first to admit that one of the reasons I was drawn to running (after a lifetime of swimming competitively) was because of the social aspect. Running in groups has always been something I love and while an individual sport, I’ve never felt (and often never have been) alone during training. 

However, now is the time that we have to do our part and say adieu to our groups. This is temporary and group runs will resume, but we have to band together to get through this. To put it in a running analogy, I’d rather know how far I’m running and be able to anticipate the finish line than get lost on the trail without any indication of how much further I have to run. The sooner we can stop the spread with social and physical distancing, the sooner we can resume running in groups and lining up at start lines. 

But here’s the thing. The running community is strong as hell (I’m looking at you Boston 2018 finishers) and getting creative is something we do well. So in this time of social distancing, let’s get creative. Let’s run apart, but still together. Here’s a few ideas of just how to make that happen.

Phone It In

Are you a chatty runner? Do conversations help you get through the miles? If you’re like me, then absolutely yes. Running with friends is my favorite and there have definitely been times where long runs have become therapy sessions for me. A phone call isn’t exactly the same, but I’ve found that it’s been a great substitute. Just grab a good pair of headphones and plan your run with your running buddy. You may have some silent miles (just like a run together), but you’ll know you’re both in it together!

Text Accountability

Showing up for a track session or long run is always easier when you know a running buddy is waiting for you. So, implement an accountability buddy via text. If it’s an early run, text each other when you wake up, then again when you’re heading out the door. After you finish your workout or run, connect again to recap how things went. If you ran with your phone, share some photos of cool things you saw along the way or a post-run sweaty selfie!

Audio / Guided Runs

The fitness industry has truly stepped up to the challenge that COVID-19 presented us with and that’s something that we can really take advantage of right now. Studios are offering streaming classes and apps are offering free trials to their workouts. Luckily, there’s some great running-specific options out there that don’t require a treadmill or any equipment. My local running studio in Charlotte, Tread Happy offers coached audio classes with curated playlists and fitness app Aaptiv has a free trial to all their audio classes including guided runs.Now might be the time to finally try Nike Run Club or the Zombie Run Game! There’s also a ton of other apps that offer coaching cues and can be a little voice in your ear to keep you motivated and feel less alone.

Listen to a Podcast

During easy solo runs, this is my jam! Listening to podcasts during runs is an easy way to multitask, and there are so many amazing running podcasts that get you connected to the community. Ali on the Run, I’ll Have Another, The Rambling Runner, and The Morning Shakeout are a few that regularly make it into my rotation — occasionally I get to listen to a runner I actually know personally! My one piece of advice: save the True Crime pods for later. There’s nothing scarier than listening to a murder investivation when out on a solo run. 

Run with a Family Member (Furry Ones Included)

While this one isn’t really about running solo, it’s a great reminder that sometimes our best running buddies live with us. Now might be the perfect time to build up your pup’s mileage or spend some quality out of the house time with your husband. I’m looking forward to a few stroller miles with my baby and imagine having young kids to race up and down the driveway or around the house would be fun, too (not to mention a great way to burn up some energy).

Scavenger Hunts & Strava Games 

Get together with your running group (virtually) and put together a challenge! I’ve seen groups setting up virtual scavenger hunts and funny competitions that not only keep the group connected, but also encourage running outside of your usual bubble. If your regular park loop is packed (as most currently are), set new segment records on Strava and then challenge your friends to beat them (at a different time of day).

Donate Your Miles

Make your miles count by donating your miles to a local charity in need like a food bank. My friend Lauren in Portland is doing a great job of spreading awareness about her #milesformeals, and is even counting the miles her dogs have logged!

Run a Virtual Race

Whether the race you were originally signed up for was cancelled, or you just need a challenge, racing virtually is a great option. Most virtual races offer a window of a few days so you can race when it’s convenient for you. Virtual racing has a huge social media component so even though you ran solo, you can connect with everyone else afterwards. If you weren’t signed up for anything, try a time trial and see where your fitness is and use the extra at home time to put a training plan together for a race in the fall or a virtual race this summer!

If you ever want a running buddy, count me in! I’m working hard to stay connected to the community while staying safe and I encourage you to do the same.