Springtime usually means runners across the region are ditching the treadmill or packing away the shoe spikes and headlamps. For local running clubs, it also means a return to social runs and group get-togethers. However, COVID-19 has left its mark on yet another facet of everyday life and for the Keene-based Scores Running Club and the Peterborough-based Monadnock Milers, social distancing has changed the look of springtime running, but not their passion for the sport.

“Normally we would be heavy into our early race season and our Monadnock Grand Prix race series that we use to promote running in the community,” said Milers President Ross Ramey. “We would have started our Wednesday night track runs, our mid-week and weekend runs, plus our Bagel Mill runs and members getting together.”

Likewise, according to Andrea MacMurray of the Scores Board of Directors, “Usually our group run would be picking up as it is light out longer and people are coming out in bigger groups. The Drummer Hill Trail race is our kick-off event and that had to be canceled.”

“In Spring, we are also getting together to talk about training for the season and fall marathons,” said Scores Board Member Amanda Paul.

Obviously, none of these components – from the group runs and post-run social time to the local races or creating a training plan for a specific race (that may or may not be held even in late Summer or Fall) – are happening right now. Instead, the clubs are switching to keeping their members engaged through alternative means. Both groups are still focused on encouraging running in the community and helping members to meet their goals and stay healthy and balanced, even at home.

“Everybody in the club is my friend and I wanted to stay engaged with everyone,” MacMurray said. “There is an app called Strava where we can see each other’s run and see how it’s going. We are also doing Zoom meetings and encouraging each other on social media.”

The Milers have taken their social distancing one step further and are holding what they call a “Survive the Pandemic Virtual Marathon.” Starting in early April and running through late May, each week members can log their longest run of the week and if after the eight weeks those runs total 26.2 miles or more, the prize is a special “Survive the Pandemic Virtual Marathon” t-shirt.

“We were finishing up our winter series and had to cancel the last race when one of our dedicated participants said, ‘Well, I’ll just have to do a virtual race,’ and we said maybe that’s what we’ll have to do,” said Sean Radcliffe, the webmaster and social media director for the Milers. “We got a great response and came up with the idea of virtual marathon. We didn’t want our runners to think we abandoned them and we wanted a way to do what we always do, which is to get out and run safe.”

Ramey continued, “We needed to find a way to continue engagement with our members and to encourage them to keep running. This is another means of doing something that is important to all of us.”

Across the country, most gyms and fitness centers are closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Without a facility to use, running is one of the easiest ways to exercise in a safe, socially distant way, plus it offers an excellent cardiovascular workout.

“Running is a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the trails and places that you might not visit very often,” Paul said. “For someone who has never run, all you need is shoes, and for more serious runners, it is a way to keep stress levels down.”

“Running is a training ground, and to reach that finish line, whether it is of a training run or a race, runners need to push themselves. Often, once they start, people find they want to excel at that and think what they can do to improve,” Ramey said, showing how easy it is to get started on the path to a healthier lifestyle through running. “Then they start adding weight training and improved nutrition to their routine.”

Both Scores Running Club and the Monadnock Milers welcome participants of all levels. Both said they try to serve the community of runners from families with children to seniors and are not competitive clubs, but rather are there to encourage members and to share their love of running.

“I would think there would be people right now drawn to running. Maybe they are at home and stir-crazy and might turn to running. If that is you, then absolutely get out there and connect with us,” said Chad Nye, a member of Scores. “As one of the slowest runners in the club, people often say they want to join, but that they’re too slow. We’re not the Club that looks down on anyone. We’ll run with you and get to know you.”

To learn more about Scores Running Club visit scoresrunningclub.org or facebook.com/scoresrunningclub. The Monadnock Regional Milers are online at monadnockmilers.com and facebook.com/groups/monadnockregionalmilers.