A retired couple who have called Sykesville home the past 25 years, Barry and Mary Menne are grateful to get on their bicycles and enjoy the countryside.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they have continued to ride two or three times a week, noting how important it is being able to get outside to enjoy something together.
As members of the Baltimore Bicycle Club, their weekly treks have been without one key component, however.
“We’ve always bicycled a lot and we’re very fortunate it’s something we’ve been able to continue to do, though we greatly miss riding with all of our friends because that’s often how we’ve done it, especially on weekends. It’s usually 15 to 20 of us together and we’re not doing that anymore,” said Barry Menne, who was an electrical engineer.
Area bicyclists, runners and walkers alike – and the respective clubs many are members of – are learning to adjust their activities during COVID-19’s stay.
Per the Maryland Department of Transportation website, Gov. Larry Hogan’s March 30 executive order allows residents to engage in outdoor exercise activities as long as they comply with health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Maryland Department of Health.
Included is staying home if you are experiencing symptoms, along with social distancing. Further guidelines include avoiding crowded areas, prepare ahead of time for your outing and practice good hand hygiene along the way.
The outdoor enthusiasts are most missing out on the social aspect of their respective activity.
All of the clubs have canceled or postponed recent races, events and training sessions with the all-too familiar “until further notice” attached to notices on its websites.
The latest to fall at the BBC is the annual Kent County Spring Fling, which was scheduled for May 22-25. The club’s president Patrick Lapensee said around 250 bicyclists were expected to participate in the popular Memorial Day Weekend event, which is hosted by Washington College.
Wanting to stay in contact with club members, Lapensee plans to send out short notices every couple weeks to keep them informed.
When social distancing was first introduced, he said a group of six club members went riding together with some not adhering to the guidelines.
It proved alarming.
He and his wife, Denise Huson, are currently not biking, opting to go on walks for now.
“Mostly people will go out and ride solo, but there are far fewer people riding their bikes now than would be under normal circumstances,” said Lapensee, a Sykesville resident.
“Me and my wife walk a lot at Western Regional Park in [Woodbine] and a lot of people are walking there as well … and that’s how they are getting their exercise.”
Charm City Run owner Josh Levinson says running in the area has increased during the pandemic, albeit individually or in considerably smaller packs that have committed to social distancing.
“The positives are there’s a lot more people running and a lot more people running more often," he said. “Many runners do it for peace and mental health, including myself, so obviously that’s one of the reasons it’s on the rise. Just being able to get out of your house in this beautiful weather is a wonderful opportunity.”
Levinson and his wife, Kara, founded Charm City Run in 2003. The running and walking specialty store, which also offers training programs and sponsors racing events, now has seven locations.
While business has declined during the pandemic, Levinson praises the community for its support.
“People are buying stuff they may not even need for awhile just to support local business and be sure we can stay around at the end,” Levinson said. “That being said, business is down. We have a huge part-time community who work in the store and we can’t put any of those folks to work right now, but we’ve managed to keep our full-time folks working and we’ll do that as long as we can. I think people in the community appreciate that and want to support that.”
While bringing people together is a big part of Charm City Run’s business, Levinson is finding alternatives while events and training sessions are put on hold.
In addition to virtual training sessions, people can now make an appointment for virtual fitting before ordering a new pair of shoes.
David Reynolds, a 61-year-old Mount Washington resident, became an avid runner in 2009 and began training with Charm City Run the following year.
The retired librarian says he loves everything about running but mostly the connections he has formed with other runners.
Normally, he would log anywhere from 25 to 50 miles per week and often with a group of up to 15 fellow runners.
These days are not the norm.
“Since this has happened, I have gradually weaned myself away from running with groups altogether,” he said. “When the social distancing started, I was still trying at the beginning to get together with a couple of people and we would maintain the distance, but the last two weeks I’ve really stopped doing that altogether and I’ve just been running solo. So mostly the motivation is more of a problem because you don’t have accountability of running with people, but it also changes the vibe.”
Reynolds added he still runs the same number of miles and the same number of days per week, but the experience is not the same.
Neither are the logistics.
Prior to the pandemic, he would vary the locations of his runs – often driving to different places and getting a mix in of hitting the trails and running on the road.
With hiking trails more narrow than roads and more people showing up because there are less available activities, Reynolds is finding the social distancing guidelines nearly impossible to follow. So instead, he only runs in his neighborhood.
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“I’m really trying to follow the letter of the law,” he said, adding how much different it is from what he’s used to the past 10 years.
As of now, the Baltimore Road Runners Club has canceled races and training programs through April.
In an email, club president Valencia Hike wrote how not being able to serve members and the community is “a very hard pill to swallow.”
The club has recommended, per the governor’s stay-at-home order, that the preferred way to run is solo and from home. To keep members engaged and motivated, club coaches are posting scavenger hunt items and asking them to find them during neighborhood runs or walks and post a picture the following day.
From a personal standpoint, Hike went on to write: “Running is my me time. … It is my therapy. It is my time to clear my head and leave stresses of the day behind me. Although I am thankful I am still able to run, I find myself missing running with friends. I take solace in the fact that we have an incredibly supportive running community with compassionate and loyal members that makes us all genuinely feel a part of one big extended family.”
During one recent ride, Barry and Mary Menne took note of how many people, mostly families, were outside doing activities while abiding by the social distance guidelines.
“It was remarkable,” Barry said. “You kind of hope this has some lasting effect and people appreciate things they hadn’t done before. So, hopefully, that’s a good thing that can eventually come from this.”