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Virtual marathons and races on Long Island keep runners connected 

Chrissy Thorne, 40, of Franklin Square, Sal Farruggia,

Chrissy Thorne, 40, of Franklin Square, Sal Farruggia, 34, of Glen Cove, and Marilou Matlock, 37, of Babylon participate in virtual 5K runs with LI Kick. Credit: LI Kick

You can’t keep a Long Island runner down — at least not virtually.

With spring road races canceled or postponed, Long Islanders are signing up for virtual running clubs and runs that provide some of the thrills of a road race, without the dangers of a crowded field.

“It may or may not be the same goal as if you were running the actual race, but [a virtual run] motivates you” and “keeps you connected with other runners,” says Sue Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Greater Long Island Running Club. Fitzpatrick, 59, of Dix Hills, recently completed a virtual Washington, D.C. cherry blossom 10-miler on streets in her own neighborhood.

Running the gamut

Up to a quarter of Long Island’s annual running events are currently being offered with virtual options, according to Patchogue resident Brendan Barrett, 36, of SRC, a race timing company in Sayville.

Ranging from single-day to weekslong events, they include competitive races with GPS monitoring, charity fundraisers run on the honor system and informal fun runs. Depending on the rules, miles can be logged on neighborhood streets, in parks, backyards or on home exercise equipment. “Every racer is figuring out their own way of doing it, in keeping with their own culture,” Barrett says.

For his part, Barrett is hosting and participating in a “run around the world challenge,” which began April 1 with 600 participants — mostly Long Islanders — and a goal of collectively (and virtually) running two times around the earth’s circumference.

Other clubs are also getting creative during their social distancing marathons.

“We encourage people to let their freak flag fly, to wear a onesie or a costume” on their outdoor routes, says Sal Farruggia, 34, of Glen Cove, a former marathoner who owns LI-Kick, a social sports club for Long Islanders 21 and older. The club held its last actual road race in Bay Shore in February before switching to a virtual 5K on April 25. The new format, which has runners posting their distance, time and a “sweaty selfie” on the Strava app, “keeps us safe and sane and it’s a way for us to be together while we’re apart,” Farruggia says.

Lisa Galasso, 34, of Patchogue, assistant director for alumni engagement at St. Joseph’s College, ran her LI-Kick 5K on Patchogue’s Main Street and took her sweaty "proof" selfie at a dock on the Great South Bay. “I’m not a marathoner, but I’m doing it for the social media presence,” she said.

Virtual racing "gives you incentive if you see people running and having a good time,” says Marilou Matlock, 39, of Bay Shore, a pediatric nurse at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, who shares her road running results with her friends on Strava.

A race is born 

The Babylon Village Chamber of Commerce got its running game on by hosting a virtual 5K from April 27 to May 2.

“We wanted to do something that was unique and different, and fun for families to go out and do,” says Danielle Vergano, the chamber’s vice president of special events. The race could be completed running, walking or on the stationary bike in the den.

Prizes were given for the slowest as well as fastest self-recorded times, and for the most unique running path. Proceeds from the $5 entry fee bought meals for local front-line hospital workers.

Find a running event

The next LI-Kick Virtual Running Series begins on May 9. Sign up at li-kick.com. For more virtual races, visit Greater Long Island Running Club virtual events, at glirc.org, as well as runsignup.com and strava.com.

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