When the COVID-19 shelter-in-place regulations halted the Delta Limitless youth running club, founder Eric Morford dashed to the computer to keep the team moving forward.
The group, used to running in large groups outdoors, now unites almost daily in the virtual world to keep their spirits high and their legs moving.
“I’ve always felt like the biggest reason I have Delta Limitless is not so much for people to run,” said Morford, who launched the usually in-person outdoor running club in 2014. “I feel like there’s a huge aspect to really helping students feel welcomed and accepted and appreciated. So I just wanted to make sure that I continue to allow students that opportunity to feel appreciated amongst each other.”
Morford, who’s running the online service for free, distributes virtual weekly training plans; holds daily online group exercises aimed at instilling motivation, wisdom, gratitude and fun; and hosts cyber game nights and twice-weekly webinars with prominent runners to inspire greatness.
For many, the online movement is a welcome addition, especially with group activity shelved, said one parent of a runner.
Currently about 10 elementary to high school students participate online.
“When this all started he quickly realized how these kids would all be devastated about missing track season,” said Jessica Buscho, a parent. “He inspires them, talks to them about physical and mental health and basically uplifts them. He even has game nights with them. He is one of the kindest, most humble and inspiring people we’ve ever known.”
Morford, who’s also a Liberty cross-country and track coach, has had several years of online college education, equipping him to use virtual tools to quickly pivot from in-person coach to virtual leader when the shelter-in-place regulations took hold in March.
The themed online sessions — including Motivational Monday, Wisdom Wednesday and Thankful Thursday — promote cognitive development and inspire social health, continued team camaraderie and motivation to continue running while the in-person group is on hiatus.
Included in the mix are opportunities for the youth to share special stories, play games and laugh, courtesy of a Friday routine that calls for participants to dress up in funny costumes.
High-profile runners also appear about twice a week to give advice and answer viewer questions. Just a handful of past guests have included Olympic hopeful Craig Engels and Nico Young, a reigning cross-country national champion.
“The biggest thing about it is just keeping kids in touch with each other, allowing them space in which we can meet together on a daily basis,” Morford said. “This (the shelter-in-place) is probably the toughest time for the youth right now.”
While the online world is a suitable temporary substitute for the unprecedented end of group activities, Morford said he’s already tossing around ideas to resume normal operations when conditions permit.
Running, unlike other sports, is conducive to social distancing, which raises hopes the club will resume sooner rather than later, Morford added.
During ordinary times, the club meets in the mornings during summer and after school during the winter, fostering mental and physical development.
“I am really crossing my fingers we can get back to things in the summer,” Morford said. “I know it’s a medium which a lot more people would love to be into.”
For more information, visit Deltalimitless.com.