The Bronco Running Club continues to race to create a casual and fun environment for runners of all levels of expertise and stamina even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the club has lost its in-person social efforts, it keeps its members united and fit through social nights via Zoom and virtual competitions using the fitness app “Strava.”
Every three weeks the club holds a competition where participants run as many miles as they can within that three-week stretch. At the end of the three weeks, the runner with the highest total of miles wins a prize. In order to keep it fair, no member can win more than once.
One member, Nirali Patel a second-year computer information systems student, feels that the transition to the virtual environment has been difficult for her to adapt to.
“Socially it’s the same, but at the same time, it’s kind of hard because some of us haven’t really been in contact, or we can’t see each other,” said Patel. “The pacing is different, and I feel like I ran faster when I was with them than when I’m running with my friend now, because we don’t have a group to push us or make us go faster.”
Prior to Cal Poly Pomona’s shift to virtual instruction, the club was comprised of 38 registered members and about 16 active members. Of the current 31 registered members today, eight remain active.
Club president Kevin Lee, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, mentioned that lately some of the members have no drive to run.
“Some people feel a bit more unmotivated because they can’t run with their friends,” said Lee. “Hopefully, in the future when the pandemic has passed us, we’d like to be able to do that again and have those fun events for people to have something to look forward to in college.”
Still, some members of the club will be participating in the virtual race known as the 2020 Revenge of the Bird Virtual 5K Turkey Trot. The event is open to anyone and is hosted by The Virtual Run Challenge.
When participants sign up for the turkey trot, they will receive a tracking number in the mail and may choose to begin and end their race at any day or time. They are not required to finish on a certain day, and they can even split their race in parts, allowing for them to complete it at their own pace. Participants may run, walk or cycle indoors or outdoors. The event is based on the honor system, so once someone has completed their run, they report it and receive a prize in the mail.
For the club, operating virtually or not, inclusivity remains a top priority.
“We pretty much accept everybody,” said Lee. “Even when we’ve had physical meetups for the running club, anyone that shows up could just join the club.”
For the club’s scheduler, Jeriah Perez, a second-year mechanical engineering student, the Running Club succeeds in creating an environment where runners of any level of fitness may join and feel comfortable.
“A lot of people feel like there’s an obligation to their club, whether or not they feel forced to do it,” said Perez. “With us, we’re a lot more lenient and laid back, and we try to be as down to earth as we possibly can.” Patel has been in the club for two years and enjoys it because it is a compelling way for her to stay active and make friends in a setting that accepts everyone for who they are.
“It’s nice because we don’t really judge anybody about what your pace is or how slow you are, it’s all about just having fun running,” said Patel. “Running is one of those sports that is a community, so even if you’re slow that doesn’t matter because you can always grow.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club would host runs four days a week and every two weeks they would hold a social night where members would either hike, bowl or engage in other forms of fun and social physical activities. Members are not required to attend the runs or to the socials, but they are encouraged to do so.
A fee is not required in order to join, but if members want special benefits, they can become paying members and receive items like a club T-shirt and reimbursements for races.
When the club was first established in 2015, founder, Alexis Escobar, a former student, wanted to begin running with other people instead of continuing to run solo. That tradition continues five years later, despite the club adapting to a virtual environment.
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