In these anxious times, the feeling of not being able to do something to help people affected by COVID-19 can be as bad as the fear of the virus itself. In addition, with so many prominent races being cancelled, many runners are left without a goal, but with energy to spare and a wish to contribute, somehow. Of course, going out for an isolated run is still acceptable in these quiet times, but what if this beloved activity could also be a force for good?

For Minnesota locals Aaron Boike, owner of 3CLICK Fitness, and Matt Van Donsel, Clinical Engineer at Allina Health, both accomplished endurance athletes, the answer was to combine the two. On Saturday morning, March 28th, Boike and Van Donsel set off, over six feet apart from each other, on the dark, quiet sidewalks of the hilly Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis, not far from the Walker Art Center and Lake of the Isles, to run 100 consecutive miles. In deference to the repeated, unrelenting inclines for which the area is known, the run was dubbed, “The Mt. Kenwood 100 Mile Endurance Run”. Two additional friends, Jeremy Eckert and Ben Foreman, powered through the first 50 miles of the daunting, rain-drenched course before ending their runs.

The Mt. Kenwood 100 Mile Endurance Run

They made no grand announcement about the event, no fanfare, so as to preserve the “no groups” ethos so critical to keeping Minnesotans safe. They opted for deserted streets rather than the more popular parks or lake paths, to minimize contact with others. They ran one loop, over and over, for 24 hours (including brief breaks to eat and change clothes), in a torrential downpour, snow, and whipping wind. They did it in true Minnesota style—low-key, upbeat, largely unheralded, except for a few family and friends

They sought not glory, but pledges; friends pledged money per mile, or one total amount, all of which will be given to the PRISM food shelf and social services non-profit in Golden Valley, at this time when trying to serve the food-insecure through mobile deliveries, drop-offs, etc., is increasingly challenging. PRISM also offers housing assistance and children’s programs, both so critical during these months of increased need.

Support came in the form of a few stalwart local fans, including Mark Johnson, owner of Performing Running Gym, a gym tailored to the fitness needs of runners, where Boike and his 3CLICK Fitness team often train their clients. Fortunate to have a home about a mile away from the designated loop, Johnson was able to post photos and updates on the duo’s progress throughout the day. “It was important for me to support Matt and Aaron, both members of Performance Running Gym, and to provide updates and pictures on social media to the rest of our members. I knew that what they were doing would really resonate with the gym community and maybe take their minds off of everything that is happening even if only for a few minutes,” Johnson said.”How they were able to battle through such difficult weather conditions was amazing and that they were doing it by themselves with no fanfare, all while raising money to help those in need, really speaks to their character and I think to the character of the greater running community, especially the Performance Running community!”

Fueled by oatmeal cookies, pancakes, and determination, the pair pushed on through Minnesota weather in all its permutations, to finish the 100.2 miles in 24 hours, 48 minutes. In these unsettled moments, when we are all drawing back and drawing lines, desperate to connect but walled off from connecting, sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other, in order to help those in need secure a meal the next day, can offer that necessary sliver of hope.

Read the full race recap or our feature in the StarTribune.