FLEMING ISLAND - With all running races stopped after the Gate River Run 15K for the Coronavirus shutdown, area runners have taken to competing in a hi-tech way; the Miles de Mayo Challenge, a virtual challenge.
"The world shut down after the River Run," said Jacqueline Kroggel, a Fleming Island runner and also a swim coach at Fleming Island High School. "We have to find ways to blow off some energy."
Just past the midway point of May, Fleming Island's Pavement Killers run group's Cinzia Rothrock was up at 5 a.m. to meet her fellow runners; Vanessa Lain, Jacqueline Kroggel, Jennifer Otero (with husband Chris), Tracy Pfuntner and Millie Thrasher. All showed up at Eagle Harbor's Tennis Club facility with APP-equipped cell phones and Garmin GPS devices ready to add to their monthly challenge; the Deland-based Miles de Mayo Challenge.
"I have almost 150 miles with my goal at 200," said Rothrock. "I'm not sure how it started. Pretty much, we do it on our own, take a screen shot of your GPS, then email that information with your bib number to the host."
Rothrock noted there is a male runner who has accumulate nearly 40 miles a day since his start with a commanding 600-plus miles.
For the rest of May 2020, a handful of area road runners will be armed with their GPS and APPs to take on the same effort in a virtual challenge called Miles de Mayo Challenge.
Based out Deland, the Miles de Mayo Challenge features a month long mileage challenge (run, run/walk, walk).
"I don't think they expected as many people to log on to their idea," said Rothrock. "I think it's like 1800 people now."
Dan Matuszczak, one of the co-owners for Red Pointer Productions, who anticipated 500 participants, the overwhelming response required a rapid response tech team to keep things running smoothly.
"Yeah there were definitely snags that we had to quickly realize and manage on the go," said Matuszczak. "There really wasn’t any software on the shelf ready for this kind of virtual challenge so we had to plan for the unknown. The first day we had so much action on the leaderboard and data entry that it basically crashed. We had to act quick and get another one build and functioning in a couple hours that could handle it all. We have a team behind the scenes entering in the mile submissions basically around the clock."
For the group and for Lain and her friends, the element of competition that has been missing since the nation has been staying at home has added to the vast interest.
"Our last race was the Gate River Run 15K in Jacksonville in March," said Lain. "Because I'm working at home, I have to get out at 4-5 a.m. to get my miles in so I can start work about 8 a.m. I have a group to run with in Ponce Inlet also."
On the Miles de Mayo Challenge Leaderboard (May 22), updated every five minutes with runners entries, the top total is 687.47 miles with two other runners above 600 miles.
From the Eagle Harbor group, Lain is in ninth place with 361.4 miles with double digit totals near 20 miles; 10.5 to a top day of 20.2 on May 19. Pfuntner is at 254.76 with Kroggel at 244.2, Thrasher is at 217.66. Rothrock has 142.66 miles. Chris Otero at 91.87. Jen Otero is at 78.17 with son Colton at 47.93.
"The challenge is a good way to just get out of the house," said Kroggel, who has three children to tend to in her house. "They have actually been pretty good at reminding me when I have to go run."
For the end game, most of the runners were pushing their totals for a coveted 300 mile T-Shirt.
"The shirts go every 50 miles with the 300 the big one," said Kroggel. "With the River Run the final race before they shut down the world, this is our release."
For the Oteros, who have roped son Colton into the challenge, it's a family together incentive.
"We have him in on it and he has to do three miles every day," said Jennifer Otero. "We go with him, take the dog and make a trip of it."