ELKO — One year ago, in the height of the shutdown, Bethany Headley and Neena Moore chose to inspire and encourage others by running the first COVID-19K. Now with the nation heading toward stasis, the pair wanted to celebrate — celebrate health, celebrate friendship, celebrate overcoming; so, they organized another run, the Empowered COVID-19K. Unlike last year, where they ran alone at a 6-foot social distance, they had company.
This year the run was open to all members of Empower Fitness. Headley spread the word by posting on the gym’s Members Only Page and setting out sign-up sheets at the front desks.
“We had 80 sign up,” Headley said, “Some have had to drop out due to injury but that’s a lot more than last year.” In the end 30 ran, which was indeed more than the previous year, 15 times more.
“Last year we were trying to kinda fundraise and support our community. This year, now that things are more established in the community, things have settled down, we’re doing it more for empowerment and just to celebrate that we’ve made it this far and we’re still working out. We can do this.”
Last year’s run began at the gym in Spring Creek and ran mostly uphill to the Elko location. This year the course went in the opposite direction. Headley said the decision was a pragmatic one.
“It was so we could finish on the downhill. There’s 4 ½ miles at the end. It does make going over the mountain trails harder because that’s going to be mostly uphill, but this way we start on a downhill and we end on a downhill. The only uphill part is the mountain, really. So we think that might be easier in a way, but some of those hills are big over the mountain.”
The course served as a metaphor for the year, something Headley noted by posting a sign of encouragement at the top of the hill: “You’ve Flattened the Curve!” It read, “It’s Downhill from Here! –Empowered COVID-19K.”
This year also had a lot more planning and paperwork. The course was marked with green chalk paint, something they got permission to do. Once a member showed interest by messaging or signing up, Headley emailed them instructions and a waiver, which was to be completed before running. Before the race there was a check-in simply to be certain everyone got off the mountain.
Provisions for the runners were made along the way. “We set up two water stations,” she said. The first was manned by Jeff and Mindy Watson, owners of Empower Fitness; the last by Headley’s husband Robert, a local firefighter.
Right before the race began, Headley received some encouragement from a gym member who couldn’t join in due to an injury.
Lucas Rose sent a text to her with a picture of a third water station next to the midway sign. Headley grinned and said, “That’s so nice of him.” Rose’s station had more than water. Orange juice and snacks waited with a stash of water bottles.
At 9:20, the participants gathered behind the Gym. Headley gave brief instructions, outlining the course, explaining the green chalk markers and cones that would guide them over Elko Mountain and to the Spring Creek gym. The members then moved to the start line and at 9:30 they began.
The first to the finish the 19K was George Skivington. Beating every expected estimation, he crossed the line at 10:54 making his time 1 hour 24 minutes. Next to come in were Jesse and Jeff Graham a father and son duo. Jesse beat his 62 year old father’s time of 2 hours 5 minutes by mere minutes by coming in just under two hours.
Skivington’s sister, Grace, also ran finishing with one of the gym’s trainers, Laura Lopez. The pair crossed the finish with a respectable two hours and 27 minutes.
The last to cross the finish line did so at 2:15 p.m., four hours and 45 minutes after starting.
“We love our members.” Mindi Watson said of the event. “We’re grateful that Bethany and Neena did it. It was really something they wanted to do to give back to the gym. They planned it all. They did it all … We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from our members and the community this past year.”