Running during a time of pandemic and social isolation have been tricky and challenging for all of us, while we’ve been forced to change our running routines, training sessions, and racing events.
We had a talk with the Danish running crew SPÆN on how they managed to thrive, support each other and keep running during the pandemic.
“I really realized what we’ve been missing out on: hugs, helping each other reach goals, high fives, smiles and the fantastic experience of shared exhaustion. But we’ve seen that where there’s a will there is often a way.” - Kasper, SPÆN founder.
If you’re curious to know more about how SPÆN managed to keep it running during the pandemic, please read the interview below.
Could you please start by introducing yourself and your role at SPÆN?
I’m Kasper Høgh, the founder of SPÆN, 33 years of age, husband and father of two, self employed psychologist and a lover of running. Since the beginning of SPÆN I’ve been taking care of of the visual communication, reaching out to sponsors and establishing a lovely relationship with Saysky.
Can you tell about the running crew, SPÆN and its history?
Originally we started out as a group of psychology students training for a race together. I renamed the club in order to let people know that everyone was welcome to come train. And suddenly a lot of different students from around the university campus in Aarhus started showing up. From there on we’ve traveled the world to race, we’ve had our weekly two training sessions for more than seven years and all the young runners have finished their education and now the club is increasingly becoming a running club for working moms and dads as well.
I’ve been training with one of the official athletic clubs in Aarhus. I liked the guys and girls there, but I was missing a more colorful environment. I missed talking with my teammates about subjects besides diet, training plans, race calendar, injuries and running career plans. I found that making a club like SPÆN attracted more people with a lot more wide sets of interests. I really like that about our club. It’s not just running. It’s a real opportunity to connect, get inspired and form friendships on a foundation of other things besides running.
In what way has SPÆN been challenged by the pandemic?
For us it has been important to race local races year round and to see each other on a weekly basis. This part of the club has obviously been challenging. For a period of time we had to ask our runners to select a designated running partner in order to keep up with the government’s restrictions. This meant that someone was mostly running alone and those who had partnered up would often partner up with a runner on the same level for practical reasons. Usually we run on a lot of different levels (from 2:30 marathoners to +4:00 marathoners, 16min 5k’ers to 25min+ 5k’ers) and during the pandemic the club got more divided by level of fitness.
Did you use any alternative training methods to stay connected during the lockdown?
As aforementioned we teamed up in Covid-pairs and we encouraged people to stick to their usual SPÆN-training plans. For example running our usual intervals at the same time and date of the week. Several people did this and it helped give some feeling of a community.
The most influential thing we did was when the restrictions started loosening up again. We arranged our own local races (5k, 10k and half marathon) in different locations in Aarhus. Mette Røjkjær, a dedicated member of the club, almost single handedly came up with the idea, found sponsors and started working out different race ideas: courses, dates, race format etc. We called it SPÆN GADERÆS. Mette ensured that the races would be free to participate in, all would have a race bib on their chest and we welcomed all runners – not just SPÆN-runners. These races were extremely vitalizing boosts of energy, giving the feeling of community and uplifting sense of shared passion.
How did the crew manage to run safely as you reconnected again?
Pretty simple: we followed the government's practical restrictions. We asked runners to make their attendance visible on Facebook, asked runners to stand apart and in the beginning of every training a designated runner would count runners. If the limit was exceeded we would split the group in two and stay in the two separate groups for the rest of the training session.
As a running crew, what role does community play to you in times of a global crisis?
I think that there are as many answers to this question as there are runners in the crew. It is my impression that runners with kids and a family life at home were less affected by the restrictions. I think that’s a general tendency in our society. Whereas runners without partners or kids were more affected and more longing to get back to the crew and the social setting the training offers.
When we started SPÆN GADERÆS I really realized what we’ve been missing out on: hugs, helping each other reach goals, high fives, smiles and the fantastic experience of shared exhaustion. We saw that people just hung out and chilled several hours after our races. If our runners didn’t know they were hungry for connection these events surely showed that this was in fact the case.
From a community perspective, is there something you have learned from the pandemic?
I’ve definitely learned to cherish our freedom to move, gather, hug and train together. I think a lot of people have taken this for granted because they’ve never tried anything else (I for one haven’t tried anything else than that).
And then we’ve seen that where there’s a will there is often a way: Mette showed us that if we really wanted to meet up, have race bibs on our chests, have the race feeling and go all out, we could get that done ourselves.
Has your crew been able to arrange or participate in any events recently?
Yeah. Things are opening up again and we’re starting to take part in smaller local races again. We have a tradition to partake in a race series of four races in Aarhus from November until the 31th of December. We’re really happy to be out there again – racing together.
Can you give some advice to fellow runners about how to stay motivated during pandemic?
Stick to your routines, act as if you’re going to your usual training at the usual time and date. Make virtual events. For example: make your usual Facebook events and invite participants to post their training, a picture and/or a comment about how it went.
Hopefully you like running in itself as well, which makes these social distancing-times an opportunity to get back to the basics: do what you like about running. The long runs? The audio book runs? The techno music runs? The trail runs? The fast tempo runs? I mean… It is the season of “you do you”. I’ve personally found the occasion to listen to a lot of the music that I don’t get to listen to when the usual everyday hazzle is doing it’s thing.
Keep up with SPÆN here.