It's been a tough summer for running clubs, but not necessarily for joggers.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has limited get-togethers for clubs, so they've had to adapt. Clubs have been a good way for runners to train together for whatever event they are getting ready for, from marathons all the way down to local charity five-kilometer races.

"We had to take a few weeks off from meeting due to the stay-at-home order," said Anna Henning, who heads the Jordan Running Club. "Since then, we've continued to meet but kept our distance and did not share anything besides encouragement.

"We have seen much more people out and enjoying the weather than we have in previous years, which is great," Henning added. "We would love to get new members into the group."

The Jordan Running Club had a local event Aug. 22. The hope was to find new runners, and to also encourage the community to stay active and healthy in these tough times. Runners took to the community streets, running 5Ks to half marathons.

"It was beautiful weather and a very positive experience," Henning said.

What inspired the event? Well, big races like Twin Cities Marathon has turned into a virtual event this October, while huge national marathon events like the New York City, Boston, Chicago and Grandma's Marathon in Duluth have been canceled altogether.

Many local charity fundraising races did not happen this summer either due to COVID-19.

"A lot of our runners have trained hard all summer just to have events canceled," Henning said. "Our idea was to put together a 'fake race,' where people would be socially distant but still have the course outlined, water stops (bottled water) and have family and friends who could cheer along the route."

With gyms closed much of the summer, and other outdoor group recreational activities discouraged, running is one activity that can be done alone or with a friend outside while following COVID-19 guidelines.

"More people are finding free and outdoor activities to stay busy, which is fantastic," Henning said. "We love seeing more people out and exercising. We have been following the Minnesota Department of Health sports guidelines when we meet.

"Running is a non-contact sport and if precautions are in place, it can be done safely," Henning added. "We ask members to only attend if they are feeling healthy. We encourage wearing masks when not running, and we also ask all runners stay at least six feet apart and do not share any resources such as water."

Health experts say running, or walking, is a beneficial way to improve mental and physical health during the pandemic.

Harvard Health studied more than 1,000 men and women who walked or ran at least 20 minutes a day, five days a week. It concluded that 43% reported fewer work sick days than those who exercised once a week or less.

The Jordan Running Club hopes to build on its pursuit of a more active, healthy community this fall.

Starting Sept. 9, the club will meet for speed and strength workouts on Wednesdays at 6 p.m., and for more socially distant group runs of three to five miles on local trails on Sundays starting at 4 p.m.

"We have people in the group whose goal is to run a mile all the way to running a 100-mile ultra race," Henning said.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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