Mary’s Running Club – A Unique Pandemic Adventure

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

When the Pandemic hit, there wasn’t a lot we had control over. Schools were shut down, sporting competitions were canceled, and places of work were closed. It seemed as though everything was changing and there was nothing we could do about it. But I found the one thing in my life I could control was my fitness. Even though I wasn’t sure when I would make it to the starting line again, I wanted to be ready for that moment. Thank goodness the parks and roads in my neighborhood were still open, so I knew that I would be able to do something outside. I trained all throughout the Spring and Summer, and competed in some great club races put on by Bullseye. Running had kept me sane during those long months when things were so uncertain.

As September rolled around, we got the news that schools were not reopening for in-person learning and Fall scholastic sports would not be happening. It was becoming painfully obvious that this was going to be difficult for all of us. I also knew if I wanted to maintain my focus during our online classes, I would have to get in some sort of physical activity before being stuck staring at a screen every day. At that point I decided I would run each morning prior to school starting. As time went by I found that simple decision really made a huge difference in my attentiveness during each class I took throughout the day.

I quickly realized that if sitting in front of a computer all day was difficult for me as a Freshman in high school, it must be terrible for younger children. I also knew that running in the morning helped me, and therefore it would surely help the kids in my neighborhood. And that’s how Mary’s Running Club was born! Each day from 7:45 to 8:30, kids from 5 to 12 years of age will meet in our cul-de-sac. We run, play games, stretch and learn drills, but most of all we just have fun. On Fridays I take the kids out on a mile run. It’s also become an MRC tradition that every Friday I bring donuts as a reward for all the hard work they put in, and needless to say it’s their favorite day. In addition. it has been so incredible to see the looks on their faces when my athletes get a new “PR” in the mile. For example, one of the little boys has gone from a 16-minute mile to an 11-minute mile in his time training with the MRC. It really thrills me to see the kids experience the same joy that I get from running. Along with regular running sessions the kids also get to socialize with their friends, which is something that I don’t think any of us will ever take for granted again.

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As time went by my athletes wanted to share their newly found love of running with their families. So I thought what better way to show off their passion for the sport than hosting a neighborhood Turkey Trot! Thanksgiving morning I mapped out one and two-mile options and invited all of my neighbors to participate. We had a great turnout and an amazing time! I even asked my neighbors to donate items for Columbia Community Cares, and we were able to make a large donation to help those in need!

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To my surprise when Winter came I thought that the kids would want to take a break from MRC, but boy was I wrong. They all came down bundled up from head to toe ready to run and play with their friends. I was so impressed by their enthusiasm. It made me so happy that they still wanted to run despite the cold. When the snow hit, we turned Running Club, into Sledding Club. As they all marched down the street with their snow tubes. We built ramps, made snowmen, raced on sleds, and had snowball fights. But when the snow melted, MRC resumed!

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I recently asked my athletes to write me a little blurb on what they like about Mary’s Running Club, and here are some of their comments…

  • “It’s great that it varies from running club to sledding club depending on the weather. Our snowball fights are epic”. Ramsey; Age 11

  • “Run club is very energetic. It gets us moving before a long day of virtual school. It’s a good chance to see my friends safely too.” Jack; Age 8

  • “I think I’ve really improved in running since running club started. I also like when we play games.” -Michael; Age 7

    “I love when we get to sprint at running club and I love seeing my friends.” Holden; Age 6

In the end I have found that the response from MRC parents has been extremely positive. They tell me their kids are much happier, more focused, and ready to learn. Our plan is to continue Mary’s Running Club as long as virtual school is in session, and maybe into the Summer and beyond if the need arises. I know we are all going to have some fond memories that we’ll carry with us long after the Pandemic is over. I hope these kids remember MRC forever. I know I certainly will!

Mary Gorsky is a National Champion runner having won a team title in cross country with Bullseye Running. When Mary is not coaching her MRC crew, she is a Student/Athlete at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills where she runs track and cross country. Mary recently competed in the AAU Indoor Track National Championships in Virginia Beach, and she looks forward to putting on her Eagle singlet for the first time this Spring.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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