Social Distance Running: 5 Ways to Stay Connected

What is it we give each other – gold, shark’s fin –

other than a renewed sense of the miraculous?

–“Earthshine,” Qiupu, Arthur Sze
Sunrise Sunday Trail Run Group

I used to have no problem waking at 5 a.m. Sunday mornings to meet for a long run at sunrise. The sound of trail shoes being clapped together at dawn stirs my senses more than coffee brewing, and hugs were always the first order of business. Now eight weeks into healthy at home orders, my runs have started later, they are less planned, and they are all alone.

I miss the preschool hours trail runs with some of my favorite people. I miss the chance to complain about the hills we’re climbing. I miss the swearing and sweating with other people who know. I miss running with one of my closest friends before grabbing a coffee and crepes together. I miss my tribe, my women’s running groups, my co-ed running groups, my people.

I know I’m not the only one missing their running partners, these friends in  who seem to always turn into confidants after spending so many hours together. This fall, winter, and early spring, my running partners listened to our daughter’s struggles adjusting to PreK, my own trail marathon doubts, my career aspirations, my frustrations, and my dreams. They cheered on my daughter’s progress, waited for me at the finish line of some of the toughest trail races I’ve ever completed, and ran me in at the end of my first marathon. As much as I can, I’ve returned the favor, celebrating their successes, supporting them on their big endeavors, and encouraging them to aim high. The bond of miles and hours together is strong.

After my first marathon at Otter Creek, Josh ran me in after finishing the marathon himself.

Of course, we runners aren’t the only ones who have had their habits totally changed. Most people are working at home, education has gone online, and phrases like “Zoom meetings” have entered our everyday vocabularies. As someone who teaches online writing classes, conversations about synchronous versus asynchronous are commonplace to me, and writing is usually solitary work. We can pull from some of these strategies to figure out ways to connect.

Hill repeats with Harkins.

While it’s up to you whether to start running with small groups or a partner or two as restrictions ease or whether you want to continue to run alone, there are low and high tech options to connect. I will share five ways you can connect with your running buddies, even from a distance.

1. Coordinate Run-bys

When you live near your running friends, coordinate a run-by. Many of the women in my local She Runs This Town chapter live near each other or run through each other’s neighborhoods. Text your friend and talk from the porch or a window if no porch is available. One of my dear friends, Stephanie, surprised me the other week, and just seeing and talking to her from a distance made a world of difference. I was struggling to get motivated to run, and my daughter was getting tired of just seeing me and my husband. Stephanie made both of our days.

2. Coordinate Podcasts

To make you feel like you’ve done your run together, pick a podcast to listen to while running and call each other or Facetime or Zoom call afterwards to talk about it. This is just like when  students listen to or read something before class for discussion except you get to pick something you just want to enjoy, whether it’s a running podcast, a comedy one, or something else. Some of my favorites are Trail Runner Nation, Koopcast, There’s No Such Thing As A Fish, and Drunk Women Solving Crime. Just be careful listening to true crime podcasts while running alone: it’s easy to get creeped out, especially on trails!

3. Coordinate Treadmill Runs

If you have a treadmill at home and so do your running friends, coordinate an easy pace treadmill run where you can connect on Facetime or over the phone and chat while you run. This option is great for running friends who run vastly different paces as well. For example, I would love to run with my neighbor Adeline more, but she’s way too speedy for me on a daily basis! She’s an 8 minute mile runner and I’m more 10+ most days. If she’s okay with slowing way down, we can run and chat, which we have done just to spend time together and talk shop as we both teach English/writing. But we could coordinate treadmill runs and run our own paces.

4. Send Videos/Message Friends

If you’ve ever thought “I wish my friend could see this” while on a run, stop and take a picture or video to send them. I’ve done this often, recording short video messages to some of my running friends as I think about them. This is something I do with my online students frequently, sending a quick video update or explanation. So far, I’ve recorded hilly cemeteries, me running down a hill I know a friend will love, and just “I’ve run this trail with you before and I miss you” to name a few. These brief moments of connection can mean so much.

5. Find an Online Running Group

Online running groups have been a way to find new running partners or routes and not physically run alone. Now they can be a way to connect with each other while running alone. Post your runs and comment on and like other people’s posts. Create virtual events where you have scavenger hunts, share interesting things you find on your runs, and just encourage each other. Reach out and make new friends, make posts that start discussion. I belong to several run clubs that have Facebook pages, and I’ve seen more and more new people posting over the past several weeks, both new runners and runners who just always lurked in groups. The outpouring of support has been simply wonderful to see.  

Summer group run


Believe that we look upon this stalk of time ;

and in this expansion, time too grows for us

richer and richer towards infinity. —

“Night Flight : New York,” Theory of Flight, Muriel Rukeyser

Spending time apart has hopefully made us value our time together more. We can still reach out to each other and live up to the motto of Run the Ville: motivate, encourage, and inspire. We just have to be smart and we will get through this together and see each other at races in the future. Do what’s in your comfort zone, and take advantage of technology to connect in our low tech sport. Together or alone, we can help each other do great thing!

Who do you miss? How have you been coping with being apart from your usual running partners? What strategies have you tried?   

Published by Sarah White-Thielmeier

Writer and college writing teacher who runs, a lot, offering writing services via blogging, copywriting, and content strategy.

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