With so many people at home unable to run outside in groups due to the pandemic, one coach has decided to continue his runs through Zoom.
Many events have been canceled in the last two months, including Baptist Health Run Club meets hosted by Miami Marathon co-founder Frankie Ruiz. The group, founded in 2009, had been meeting Mondays at 7 p.m. at Skyros Sports in Downtown Doral, but was forced to stop in mid-March.
“Ever since then, we have continued to run despite the pandemic,” said Ruiz, adding the combined eight South Florida Run Club groups would normally get about 600 participants in its weekly sessions.
Now he finds himself reinventing his routes through the Zoom application. Though significantly fewer people show up now – dozens rather than hundreds – Ruiz said the runs are important to him and all of the participants.
“It’s strange having to do it this way because as I am coaching our sessions, I am reminded that I am looking at several screens all at once,” he said. “It actually has allowed us to have people join us that would not otherwise have been able to join us regardless of COVID-19.”
Including, he said, people outside of South Florida.
“So you have people connecting from North Carolina with us and Texas who used to live down here and no longer live in, but feel connected to, Doral,” said Ruiz.
Ramon Perdomo, 60, who has been running since junior high, said the runs fulfill a need.
“Zoom allows us to run independently from each other no matter where we are,” said Perdomo, who lives in Brickell. “So you are holding your phone as you speak with other runners and they are seeing your conversation, just like if you were having a conversation with somebody running next to you.”
When he finishes a routine he’ll upload his time using an application called Strava, which tracks a person’s time and route.
“I feel like Strava also keeps us engaged,” said Perdomo.
Andy Juska, who recently moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, has been running for 40 years.
“You see it more and more, everything right now is virtual. You want to run with someone, you connect with them on Zoom,” he said of the sessions.
He said he likes learning the roads around his new city while he runs with others in Miami.
“It doesn’t matter the pace when you are on Zoom. For instance, if Frankie tells us to pick up the pace, you run at whatever your own pace is,” said Juska.
Julie Sage-Kreenger, who is hard of hearing and lives in Plantation, has also joined.
“Frankie is quite mindful of my hearing condition,” said Kreenger, noting he gives visual cues of changes to the route or routine.
“When it comes to a tempo change, he holds up a sign so I could see it,” she said.
Ruiz said that he plans to continue doing the virtual group runs indefinitely.
“In this time with all these uncertainties, I believe [the pandemic] has brought a sort of silver lining into it all that has forced the runner to fall in love with just the exercise, the running itself. Not necessarily the goal associated with it,” said Ruiz.