Thursday, April 23, 2020

BikeWalkLee: Virus brings a batch of virtual events

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, April 23, 2020
by Ken Gooderham

Just because you can’t gather in a group doesn’t mean you can’t have a group event. You just have to go virtual.

The good news: It doesn’t involve Zoom. The even better news: You pick the distance, the place and the prize.

As COVID-19 keeps us safer at home, runners (and those going a little stir crazy) have turned to virtual events to provide some motivation to move. There are a number of local options going on right now.
  • The Fort Myers Track Club is offering the Social Distance Challenge beginning April 6 and running through May 15. You get a choice of four distances – 5K, 10K, 15K and a half marathon – or the more robust runners can opt for the Stir Crazy 4 Distance Challenge and tackle all four distances. The cost is $30 for the individual races and $40 for the four-race package, with proceeds going to benefit local businesses hit hard by the coronavirus collapse of the local economy. Sign up by May 8, complete your distance(s) by May 15, post your time and wait for your T-shirt and medal. Details at
  • The City of Cape Coral has organized the Safer Way Virtual 5K that benefits Lee Health that takes place from April 24 to May 4. Details at under Parks & Rec – and they also have a number of other at-home fitness options posted there.
  • has posted a number of Cape Coral-based virtual events -- 2020 Anything is PAW-sible Virtual 5K Run Walk, 2020 CoronaBusters Virtual 19K Run Walk, Remember the Fallen Virtual 21K Run Walk and Ope-RUN-ation Virtual Half Marathon Run Walk. Details at
  • Gulf Coast Runners have also added virtual events to their race calendar, with details at
Also remember, with virtual events you can join any event anywhere. Gulf Coast Runners found that out with its Wellfit Girls event, which was supposed to be April 11. The group turned it into a virtual event to great success: nearly 350 runners from 35 states and seven countries took part in either the 1-mile run or the 5K.

Fitness and face-covering

In the age of social distancing where face masks are recommended if you can keep your distance, what’s a runner or cyclist to do?

It depends.

If you plan to be in a crowd, be prepared to cover for the sake of others if not yourself. (One recent report suggested that six feet is not sufficient distancing for runners, who might leave a trail of exhaled moisture behind them... although that research has met some resistance from others.)

But if you can keep your distance, a mask might not be wise. First, to be effective it needs to somewhat restrict your breathing – not a great plan during physical exertion. Second, a wet mask (it is warming up, remember) might make matters worse instead of better, making them less good as a filter but much better as an incubator.

Finally, there’s no real proof that running, walking or cycling contribute to coronavirus transmission – as long as you keep your distance… and, if you can’t, cover up.

Isn’t exercise essential?

So golfing and pro wrestling are considered essential activities by the state of Florida… but parks have to be closed?

That makes no sense as a blanket policy.

Yes, places where people congregate need to controlled and physical distance needs to be maintained to control coronavirus.

But there are plenty of parks where people could avoid contact and still get exercise… or just get outside to shake off cabin fever!

Let me offer three local examples: Lakes Park, Caloosahatchee Regional Park and the Ten-Mile Canal (John Yarbrough) Linear Park.

The first two are a mix of activities, trails and pavilions. Obviously, the activities draw crowds (not good) and the pavilions likewise discourage distancing. But why close the miles of trails?

The third example is nothing but a trail, running from Colonial Blvd. to Six Mile Cypress Parkway, a place for cyclists, runners and walkers to keep fit while keeping their distance. (Plus, for cyclists, the park is a safer way to move north and south than riding along U.S. 41 or Metro Parkway.)

That’s not to mention the many smaller community parks that could also be utilized without risk by prudent people exercising caution along with their exercise.

Rather than barricades and barriers, wouldn’t it be better to balance safety and sanity by allowing limited use of the larger facilities… at least until the COVID crisis is on the wane?

Ready to ride or run?

Were you planning to join the climbers at the Fight for Air Stair Climb, or even thinking about it? The event, which was to be held April 25 at Oasis Tower, is morphing into something different. Watch for details at

Otherwise, group activities for running, riding or triathlons are on hold for the foreseeable future. So go virtual, because your real-world events will have to wait.


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 

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