In the world of distance learning and online communities, anything is possible. Much of what you find is not what you expect, and much of what you expect is not what you’re going to find! Case in point, the Citizens High School Running Club. You probably won’t find another running club quite like it in a high school anywhere in the United States. It’s virtually unique! Pun intended.
Our club is 100% virtual. Because many of our employees and all of our students are spread out across different time zones and even continents, the only possible way of having any kind of club is to do it online. We are friends meeting to run in a digital landscape—but we are so much more than a series of ones and zeros.
Let me tell you a little bit about Citizens High School virtual running club.
First of all, we are new. This club is the result of the shared vision of several of our staff and students. We are just kicking off…we are the founding members getting in on a ground floor opportunity, so to speak.
Second, our members probably will never meet in person. Well, not any time soon, anyway.
To be honest, our situation is not that rare or strange. In the post-Covid world, virtual pursuits are, shockingly, more commonplace than actual live, human-to-human events. Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you haven’t been to a group sporting event since the spring of 2020. And if you have, there’s a good chance you won’t recognize the people you were with because you and they were masked and more than six feet away from you. 2020 and 2021 saw the rise of virtual everything, from meetings to track meets.
Online sporting events hit the big time when the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Online Youth World Cup was held completely remotely in 2020. “As the title suggests, the event was held virtually and streamed on YouTube,” reports Nancy Gilles (Source: Inside the Games). “…spectators were transported to the Oceanic island nation of Nauru, the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and a range of locations around Europe. In total, 400 athletes from 61 countries competed. Virtual Indoor Archery World Series.”
That worldwide stage is precisely what the CHS Running Club is looking to build. Our student body is international, and we anticipate having members worldwide by the close of 2022. We’ll have runners in Puerto Rico, in Wyoming, several more in the sprawling flatlands of the American midwest. We have students on military bases in Europe, a few who run through the narrow streets of Istanbul, Turkey, tantalizingly close to the dome and minarets of the Ia Sofia. A handful have run in mountainous areas in South America.
Our club online photo gallery will be amazing. We are eager to receive photos and video of CHS runners posed next to women in colorful hats tugging at reluctant llamas or alpacas—I don’t know the difference—or down a sun-dappled rainforest path in Brazil, or along the Thames with Big Ben in the background. As a school, we are truly international, and the idea of members sharing their running adventures is half the reason we started the club!
Another unusual thing about our running club is that not everyone actually runs.
We have a few athletes who are truly runners: they train hard to set personal records and enter races. The majority of our group jogs most of the time and break into a full run when they can…or have to. It’s not required, but the muse sometimes strikes!
Some of our members walk. No running, no jogging, just walking. Others sort of mosey along. The pace doesn’t matter, the getting out and doing it does. Oh, and we have a few who don’t walk or run but hike instead. One of those members says he’s determined to do the entire length of the Appalachian trail. I hope so, because that would be an incredible feat!
I am the advisor of the club and just to throw an extra curveball into this story, I don’t walk, run, or hike. An extremely violent car crash in 2008 left me more or less unable to run, at least not without excruciating pain and the inability to move my legs the next day. I, instead, rollerblade. I think I might be one of the few remaining people in America who actually do inline skating, but I’ve been doing it for almost 30 years and used to, when I was younger and far more active than I am today, be a bicycle and speed skating racer at a national level. Today, I’m happy to be able to get down the street!
So, if you want to get down to exact definitions, our running club is really a movement club. Our members get out and move. We’re all connected using the Runkeeper app, and we total of our mileage individually. In the future, we hope to be able to export our mileage and favorite running routes and post them on this club page. For now, we just work together and share our small victories and the accompanying defeats. We encourage each other to do well, maybe to do more, but certainly just to do!
The thing about the disconnected world of distance learning is that people find ways to make connections. Ultimately, no one likes to be alone, at least not all the time. Running—or walking, hiking, or rollerblading—is, at its core, a solitary pursuit. That doesn’t mean you have to be alone to do it. You can do it alone, certainly, but you can share your results are with your friends here at the Citizens High School Running Club.
Some members have floated ideas of meeting up for a race, but we don’t all race so maybe that won’t happen. Others have suggested a group hike along some mountainous, treelined path, preferably in Autumn when the forests show off their creativity with color. But too many of the members live too far apart for that to happen soon.
For now, we will be joined together online. We will send pictures, maybe a video, to each other. On an ambitious day, maybe one of us will even make a TickTock about our shared love of movement.
Join us! You don’t even have to be a student at CHS to be a member. We want everyone to join. The more the merrier. Go to our club webpage HERE and fill out the form to become a member.