FORT MYERS, Fla — Normally at this time of year, just about any Saturday morning, you would see a group of people running in an organized race somewhere in Southwest Florida. Organizations have 5K or 10K races to raise money, and the Fort Myers Track Club helps many of them set their races up.
But this spring is different.
“We’ve canceled obviously, all group runs, all group activities," JeAnne Hertel, with the Fort Myers Track Club says.
The club has canceled all of its races until at least July. And that will affect several organizations.
“We had to cancel a race for May, for the Friends of Lover’s Key, so they’re obviously losing charitable proceeds from that race, which helps them operate throughout the year,” Hertel says.
Organizations are losing $15,000 or more in some cases. So at a time when so many are hurting, the track club decided to see if it could help in a different way, with what they're calling 'The Social Distance Challenge.' We're telling this story as part of our 'We're Open Southwest Florida' series. Fox 4 wants to support locally owned small businesses and non-profits as they adjust their way of doing things during the pandemic.
“It’s a virtual race," Hertel says. "You have to follow all the social distancing guidelines, you have to stay six feet apart. You run alone, or separated from other people if you want to run as a group.”
And you don't have to run. You can walk, or you can just donate.
The track club, which is a non-profit, says it just wants to raise money for people in Lee County.
“This is going to small businesses, local businesses right here in Lee County," Hertel says. “We’ve had a lot of businesses support us over the years, and we would like to give back."
So when you go to the Fort Myers Track Club website, you can sign up for a 5K, a 10K, a 15K, or a half-marathon. Everybody gets a t-shirt, and if you do all four races and submit your times online, you get a medal.
"[The reaction has] actually been phenomenal," Hertel says. "Our community is really good about giving back, very generous and very thoughtful.”
And that's part of what gives her hope. It's almost like we're all going through a long race, together.
“I think that there is an end in sight. I think the science is going to catch up with it, no doubt about it. But in the meantime, try to get out, try to exercise."