Keep running, keep smiling! Muscatine Running Friends make the best of sheltering in place
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Keep running, keep smiling! Muscatine Running Friends make the best of sheltering in place

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MUSCATINE — While state officials are encouraging Iowa residents to shelter in place as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, a group of area athletes is not letting COVID-19 slow down their training.

People are allowed to exercise outside and that is just what the Muscatine Running Friends are doing. They have had to modify their regular regimen to ensure there is a six-foot distance between them as they exercise, but they still are getting together on weekends to run. As the group of friends were finishing their two hour, seven mile run Saturday morning, they took the time — with plenty of space between them to discuss the benefits of the runs, especially during a time like this.

“This group is like my family and it is hard to stay away from family,” Teri Lyon, the organizer of the group said. “We don’t meet at each other’s homes. This way we can still be out and we can get the exercise and it’s good for our mental health.”

She recalls the formation of the group in October, 2006. As she was training for a marathon, she was working on a treadmill next to veteran runner Bill Ryan. Lyon recalled seeing Ryan at several runs in town. The two began talking and Ryan eventually agreed to train Lyon and one of her friends for the marathon.

As word got out about the training group, within three months, the numbers of the friends had shot up to almost two dozen. In a year, the club’s email list topped out over 175.

Nancy Shell, Lyon’s running partner, said the Friends currently have about 150 members. On Saturday only about six bundled up against the cold, overcast weather to hit the trail. Leaving from the Kum and Go at 416 Cedar St., the Friends’ unofficial starting point, the group maintained a wide path as opposed to the tight group as they would normally have for a run. Everyone in the group runs as a different pace and Lyon said there is always room for more interested runners.

“We have about 30 people that are really strong now, but about 150 people receive the newsletters,” Lyon said.

Runner Jean Pfeiffer stressed the importance of getting outside and getting fresh air and exercise with the mandate for many people to stay at home and work from home.

“Our group is maintaining all the social distances,” she said. “We don’t touch each other or cough at each other.”

The Friends meet every Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m. in the convenience store and Lyon gave an open invitation for anyone to come and join in. The group tries to run a different route every run, which is given to the athletes as they are leaving the store.

Becky Eserhaut, a physical education teacher at Madison Elementary, joined the group. She said teachers in the district went back to work over the last week. She has been broadcasting activities for her students that will allow them to keep active.

“It is so important to get out in the fresh air and exercise,” she said. “I make sure my kids know to be safe.”

Jo Mary Schuman, a worker at GPC, has worked from home for the last several weeks. She said the opportunity to get out and run with friends is something that is needed.

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