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Berkshire Running Center Hosting Virtual Races
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
01:47AM / Monday, June 08, 2020
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Since the Pandemic hit, Berkshire Running Center has hosted a series of virtual races keeping the competitive spirit alive in the Berkshire County running community.
 
Runners don’t ask for much: the right pair of shoes, an open road with mindful drivers, and maybe even the wind at their backs but one thing most certainly missing during the COVID-19 outbreak is the thrill of race day.
 
"Given the global pandemic, we felt it was the only option to continue to provide that motivation to our runners," Berkshire Running Center owner Kent Lemme said. "When we saw all the big races canceling so far in advance we knew it was going to be some time before we would be able to have a normal race and decided to put on the first Virtual Race Series."
 
Lemme was the first to admit that the virtual races are not ideal. Runners can often find another gear when racing in a tight pack but this simply is not an option with social distancing not being an option.
 
But these virtual races still allow some sense of competition and runners can not only look to best their own times but compare them to others. 
 
"We have a great running community in Berkshire County and the surrounding areas," he said. "We have heard much appreciation from them on putting these events on to help keep them motivated and healthy."
 
Lemme said along with typical race day information they also ask for a verification method such as services like Garmin or Mapmyrun. Times are later sorted through and posted.
 
Lemme said they try to put a "local twist" on their races and have "resurrected" old racecourses to mix in with new ones. Although folks can just take off and log their miles wherever they want within a one week period they are encouraged to run specific courses - alone of course.
 
Lemme said they started with a series of virtual 5K races with three different courses followed by the very successful Virtual Women's Running Race that raised more than $3500 for the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
 
Lemme said they are doing what they can to maintain a sense of normalcy in the running community. This includes still printing race day shirts available for curbside pick up. 
 
"It helps to make things feel a little more normal," he said. "It has always been a big part of racing so we are happy to be able to keep that part of the racing tradition alive."
 
And speaking of a return to normalcy, what runner doesn’t like a cold beer with friends after packing on some miles during a race?
 
Lemme said through May they have hosted virtual beer mile runs. Participants run during a set period of time, log their time, and post a photo of themselves drinking their beverage of choice.
 
Lemme said they plan to host more beer runs and other races through the coming months and people can stay up to date on BRC’s Facebook or webpage.
 
"I think given the current environment people are happy to still have the running community to be a part of in whatever form that currently looks like," he said.
 
Lemme added that their business model partly revolves around races and COVID-19 has created challenges for the small running shop. But they have adapted and plan to host more virtual races as long as they have to. 
 
"We hope as much or more than anyone to be able to get back to business as usual but don't see it happening in the short term," he said. "Much of our business plan is centered around these events and it's been challenging to keep our small business going without them.
 
Lemme added that not only do these virtual races help keep Berkshire Running Center afloat during the pandemic but they also are an opportunity for others to fundraise. With social distancing, there are not many opportunities for people to get together for a good cause.
 
Lemme reiterated that they are very excited for things to return back to normal but did note these virtual races are the perfect opportunity to get into running
 
"It is our belief that the body was made to move. Many of the problems, challenges that our population faces today are due to lack of movement," Lemme said. "We encourage all types of movement. It's not always about being fast, although we like that too."
 
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