There’s nothing like running along picturesque Minnesota trails, speeding through the twists and turns of dirt pathways beneath leaf-dappled canopies. But running is always better when you have a group of friends to cheer you on.
Running together is something that just can’t be done these days. Event organizers have canceled a large amount of races because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
For long-time sports enthusiast and Minnesota resident Bjorn Hagstrom, having a crowd of people running together, is one of the things he likes most about the sport.
Hagstrom had been preparing for months to compete in the Voyageur 50 mile race in Duluth this summer. When it was canceled, he decided to run his own marathon.
On June 6, Marine on St Croix, Minn. became Hagstrom’s racetrack. He quickly realized how difficult it was without any running partners.
“There’s no external motivation or peer pressure when you feel that pain at mile 19, and you just want to quit,” Hagstrom said. “It was a little more brutal in that aspect.”
Throughout his race, he was cheered on by his wife Änna and two daughters, three of his dedicated athletic partners.
Together, the family forms a small team of adventurers who love being active. From ultimate Frisbee to cross country skiing, they love being outside. The Hagstroms lived in St. Paul but moved to Marine about six years ago to be closer to family, and to be closer to nature.
When Hagstrom was in high school, he only ran to get better at other sports. It wasn’t until these last few years that he began running competitively.
So far, he’s run three marathons, including his recent solo run.
But Hagstrom isn’t stopping with a lone marathon. Instead of waiting for racing events to open up again, he wants to see his community stay active and healthy this summer. That’s why he created the Marine Running Club.
Using his professional skills in web design, Hagstrom created a website for the club where runners and walkers in the area can interact with the community virtually. The club is intentionally not focused on competition, so any casual runner or walker can join. However, the website features leaderboards for various goal-measuring. As of June 14, there are 23 runners and walkers registered on the site, but they hope to expand.
Hagstrom wants to see everyone in the area participate in some way, even if it’s just walking a few miles every week. One of his goals is to see how far the town can run in one summer. He has hopes that collectively, they will top a thousand miles. With lots of neighborly enthusiasm and a healthy amount of social distancing, the Marine Running Club will undoubtedly travel far and grow stronger as a running community.
“[I] just want to find a way to connect with other active folks in the area, virtually, at least,” he said. “To create a sense of team spirit, or that we’re kind of working on something together.”
The Marine runners hope that someday they will run together in-person. It may start small, with a handful of athletes, but they will be well-practiced by then.