Amy Theberge sadly watched over the last month as event organizers throughout the Portland area announced the cancellation or postponement of some of her favorite annual runs and relay races in response to the coronavirus outbreak. While she understood the need for the cancellations, Theberge, the founder of Revel Events, started to wonder if there would be a way to launch a run, while still maintaining social distancing measures.
That’s how she came up with the idea for the “Going the Social Distance Relay,” a series of virtual relay races open to teams throughout the country. The first race in the series will take place on Sunday at 8 a.m. Pacific.
It costs $20 for a team of eight to register for the event. All proceeds from the event will go to Meals on Wheels, which prepares and delivers nutritious meals to thousands of older adults daily.
“My family delivered Meals on Wheels when I was kid and it’s an organization that I like to support,” Theberge said. “They support a really vulnerable segment of our population and I wanted to pick an organization that could really use the support.”
Theberge said that 35 teams from five different states had already signed up for Sunday’s event. Registration for additional teams remains open.
The relay is expected to be a full-day event. Team members will walk or run on their own for 45 minutes either outside or on a treadmill. Once the first runner finishes his or her 45-minute run, the second runner will begin his or her portion of the run. Team members can report the length of their runs to their team captain. Team captains can then record the run on the relay website.
While participants will be running in separate locations, Theberge is encouraging runners to stay in contact digitally and share photos of their run with each other and via Instagram, using the hashtag, #GTSDR. Theberge said there would be prizes for the best costumes and team names, based on social media voting.
“I pulled together eight of my friends to try it out two weekends ago and we just had a blast,” Theberge said. “People just had a smile on their face all day long as we were texting each other and encouraging each other. I thought, ‘I have the experience as a business owner and an event planner to make this a reality, so let’s give this a shot.’”
On top of the registration fee, teams can also choose to make an additional donation to Meals on Wheels. Some groups are pledging to donate money to Meals on Wheels for each mile that they run, while other groups are soliciting donations locally.
Following Sunday’s inaugural event, Theberge said that the next virtual relays would take place on April 19 with events for both walkers and runners occurring on that day. She hopes to continue hosting virtual relays regularly while social distancing measures remain in effect.