News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Social distancing marathon in Sisters

If you’ve started running or gotten back into it in the last few weeks during the pandemic, you’re not the only one. Cities across the country have seen a rise in the number of people walking, hiking and biking outside as social distancing guidelines have taken hold.

Runners across the country are still hitting the pavement and the trails even while most races are canceled or postponed, including the Boston Marathon.

Sisters resident Virginia Silvey, a marathoner who has been running/walking for nearly 40 years, had been recently training for a race that was canceled as a consequence of COVID-19.

She told The Nugget, “Eight of us Sisters ladies have been training for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10 K Run that was to be happening May 3, 2020.”

Silvey ran quite a few marathons, including the New York City Marathon, with her oldest son Troy, and ran the Portland Marathon with her younger son Brandon.

“We have trained hard for 12 weeks and believe we are all winners,” Silvey said. “We decided to keep training and hold our own race here in Sisters — with social distancing — at the beginning of May without spectators.”

It’s a way to get in their workouts, reduce the sense of isolation and work off some stress with gyms closed amid the coronavirus. Running provides a social outlet in a time when officials are encouraging social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings to 10 or fewer.

The group met and became friends through the Sisters Athletic Club.

Group member Heidi Franz-Tremblay, an employee at The Paper Place, said, “We are all between 51 and 75 and even have a dog in our group, Mabel, a black lab.”

Franz-Tremblay ran three half marathons over a decade ago in her early 40s.

“Doing a half marathon again seemed like a great challenge and a way to push myself physically and mentally again,” Franz-Tremblay said. “I think our entire group felt that quitting and giving up was not an option, and I find the ladies in our group to be incredibly inspiring! They are great role models on what can be accomplished in your 60s and 70s.”

Silvey and another member, Anna Blumenkron, ran a half marathon in August of 2019 and began talking about participating in the Avenue of the Giants Marathon, Half Marathon and 10 K Run as a group.

Franz-Tremblay noted, “This was a race through the old growth redwoods and was on Virginia’s bucket list. Virginia, Anna and I all signed up right away and told our friends at the Sisters Athletic Club about the race. Others expressed interest and our group grew from three to eight, nine including the dog.”

She added, “As everything began to change with the coronavirus, our race was eventually moved to October. We talked, and all agreed we did not want to give up on our race that we had been training for since the end of January. So, we continued our training with our long group runs on Sundays (socially distanced of course) and began talking about how we could make it as authentic as possible.”

Franz-Tremblay worked with a T-shirt designer in Bend. Their neon green racing T-shirts say: “Social Distancing Sisters 10K and a half.” Another member, Sara Euser, is crafting race bibs, while Silvey, Marna Griffin, and Blumenkron picked the route for the race.

Silvey noted, “We are running through some of the open trails through the forest. We are following the rules and carry our own water, keeping 9-12 feet apart.”

Non-runners Susan Wilson and Sara Eastler helped by making race medals out of wood that all the participants will receive, and racing numbers, so each participant will look official. Pat Obrack-Piper is the finish-line official.

Participants for 10 K are: Pam Christ, 61; and Sarah Griffin, 51; with Mabel, her dog. Several will run the 13.1-mile half marathon: Joan Blancett, 63; Heidi Franz-Tremblay, 54; Sara Euser, 65; Anna Blumenkron, 62; Virginia Silvey, 71; and Marna Griffin, 75.

Silvey said, “We are all winners because we are doing it. You can keep going — doesn’t matter your age.”


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