Going the distance

Drew Butler
A crowd gathers at the starting line prior to the 2019 Girls on the Run 5K. The event could not take place this year because of social distancing guidelines. Instead, the organization is holding a “virtual 5K” that allows individuals to participate by themselves and at their own pace.

Every year after school lets out for the summer, Girls on the Run of Southern Oklahoma hosts an annual 5K run to celebrate the achievements their girls have made in increasing their physical stamina. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, GOTR was forced to cancel their program this spring and social distancing guidelines made holding the 5K impossible. Because they still wanted to hold some kind of event, the organization decided to make this year’s 5K virtual.

Council Director Erica Gay said the virtual 5K is taking place between May 29 and June 5 and it allows participants to create their own race course and go at their own pace.

“The idea of a virtual 5K is to basically have it your way,” Gay said. “You can go out any time during the week, and you can complete a 5K with your family or friends while still practicing social distancing. You can either walk or run, and you can even stretch it out over the week by doing maybe one mile a day.”

The event is free to participants and they can sign up online at the GOTR of Southern Oklahoma website. To make the run a bit more fun, every person who signs up gets a bingo card in their confirmation package they can mark off while they run.

“The card has all sorts of different things that you might see while you are out for your run or walk,” Gay said. “There’s a kite, a wreath, a dog, things like that. So if you see those on while you’re out you can check those off your card. It just makes the running and walking a little more fun. And it’s great for kids — and even adults — to stay entertained while they’re being physical.”

While gearing up for the many individual runs that will be taking place, GOTR coaches went out to parks and trails across the city to write some words of encouragement in chalk for the runners. These words of encouragement not only help the girls who will be running but the entire community. Gay said the organization received a post on social media from a runner who was not connected with the organization in any way who said he felt encouraged to keep going after seeing the sidewalk chalk.

If anyone feels uncomfortable going out running or does not have easy access to a good trail, they can still participate by doing the physical activity card included in the confirmation package. The card contains physical challenges that can be completed at their home.

Gay said the response to the virtual 5K has been very positive, and she herself was surprised by how popular the event has become. Their goal was to get 100 people to participate, but so far over 125 have signed up.

On June 26, GOTR will be hosting a Glow Night at Central Park to celebrate everyone’s participation, and the entire community is invited to attend.

“It’s just a way for us to invite the community to be a part of the Girls on the Run Glow Night instead of the 5K,” Gay said. “We’ll have a party where we’ll do our signature happy hair, have some snacks, and show a movie. We’re just trying to bring positivity, health and inspiration in the best ways that we can.”