Race #46 – The Runnsylvania 283 for COVID-19 Relief

Runnsylvania 283 swag!

Race #46: The Runnsylvania 283

The Cause: Heart to Heart International, a nonprofit that’s distributing medical equipment and supplies to communities in need, during the pandemic.

Running + Pennsylvania = The Runnsylvania 283

Organized by Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg, this race challenge began on the first day of summer and challenged runners to virtually run the distance across the state of Pennsylvania, 283 miles, throughout the summer. I surprised myself by wrapping it up earlier than I thought I would. (The last day of summer is September 22.)

Here are some of my stats:

  • 283 miles between June 20 and August 25 (about two months)
  • Incredibly… as I doubled-checked my run history… 50 runs
  • Average mileage per run: 5.66 miles
  • Longest run: 20 miles
  • Finish: 59th place out of 179 participants

Many days, as I circled my neighborhood for what felt like the zillionth time, I truly wished I WAS running across Pennsylvania, not virtually, but actually. The pandemic has worn my patience thin. I know I’m not alone when I say I’m weary of being mostly housebound, working from home, running from home, doing everything from home. Not getting out much. Seeing very few friends and family. Not going on vacation. Not doing “normal” things. I’m grateful for my home, but…

Here’s the thing. My thoughts during most of my runs focus on pandemic-induced situations and issues. As I write today: 174,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and 5.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with the virus (source: The New York Times). It’s absolutely mind-boggling and my heart breaks in a million ways for all those affected.

Many of my 283 miles were logged in and around my neighborhood. I’m grateful for my neighborhood running routes–a combination of roads and trails that connect up to some great little back roads, as well as major arteries. But I loved getting out and hitting area rail trails and running paths, mostly on summer weekends with running friends and/or my husband who shadowed me while biking. A change of scenery is a breath of fresh air.

Setting a big goal like 283 miles helped me stayed focused over the past two months. Many days, I simulaneously uploaded my mileage to both the One New York and Runnsylvania challenges, as I virtually ran across New York as well as Pennsylvania. Both challenges benefitted COVID-19 relief work. Runnsylvania 283 participants donated a combined total of $813 to Heart to Heart International.

Somehow, channeling my energies into these running challenges helped me cope with these challenging times. Something magical happens over the miles. Running doesn’t solve all the world’s tough issues, but the hard edges fall away amidst all the footfalls, and somehow you see a way forward as you put one foot in front of the other.

While the pandemic has tested my faith, the end result is that is has deepened my faith. I spend many runs in prayer, thinking of my family and friends while praying for them, talking to God about life’s issues. Running has a deeply spiritual quality to it as well.

A few years ago, someone remarked to me that, “Running is boring.” But I can’t identify with that at all. To me, running is a lifeline–it makes me feel alive. Life would be boring without it. And running helps me process life.

Being outside is one of the biggest draws for me, especially during the summer–my favorite season. Experiencing nature, whether it’s on a country road, an urban trail, along waterways, or simply in my neighborhood–I love all types of scenery. Studies have shown that simply being outside among the color green reduces stress and positively impacts your well-being and brain. I believe it!

I’m grateful that I can build my daily schedules around running and freelance writing. This means that most days, I run first thing in the morning. But I occasionally break up my workday with a mid-day run, and sometimes I run as the sun is setting on the day. All of the photos below represent runs that added to my Runnsylvania 283 mileage!

Running among fall’s golden browns and winter whites isn’t quite the same. I love running year-round, but spring and summer are my sweet spots. Completing this challenge, I feel a sense of accomplishment, but it also makes me a little sad because 1) I know that summer is winding down and 2) I’m going to miss having a big goal. But more on that, in a moment.

On longer runs, I also enjoy listening to music and/or podcasts. It’s a great way to multi-task, by staying up on the news, while running. I especially enjoy “The Daily” from The News York Times and “Post Reports” by the Washington Post, for great analysis of current events. Many recent podcasts focused on COVID-19 news, which again, tied into my Runnsylvania runs. More podcast recommendations: Marathon Training Academy, Outside magazine’s podcast, All the Wiser, AND my very own podcast–TheBurg Podcast, a newsy podcast that expands magazine stories from the pages of TheBurg magazine, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (How’s that for a plug… especially since it ties into Runnsylvania/Pennsylvania?!)

The guy who came up with the creative idea to blend “Pennsylvania” with the word “run” is my friend and coach Fred Joslyn. I absolutely love Fleet Feet as a company (founded by two women in the 1970s–think about how revolutionary that is!). Several of my previous “50 races” have been organized by Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg. Owners Shelby and Fred Joslyn have impacted my life–and the regional running community–in infinite ways.

Following my “50 races,” I’m going to pick back up with Coach Fred’s marathon training in preparation for a November marathon–hopefully the socially-distanced Harrisburg Marathon, or a virtual version if need be. One big lesson I’ve learned from the Runnsylvania 283 is that big challenges ultimately have big payoffs, especially in terms of well-being. And I want to keep that flowing right through the rest of 2020, with a marathon as my goal. While the end of my “50 races” is drawing near, running will still, thankfully, be my constant companion.

A friend recently told me I look “beautiful” in my running photos (her word; not mine) and that I make running “look easy.” I assured her that I do indeed sweat and that running is hard work. Here is some proof for her! On this day, post-run, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open because I was squinting against the sun, and sweat was pouring into and stinging my eyes. Nobody needs to see this on a regular basis! 😉

More memories of Runnsylvania 283 runs…

On the run, I feel like the truest version of myself.

Gabe Grunewald


  1. Karen, you are on a roll, with fundraising and miles! I’m still working on Runnsylvania and hope to join you in finishing this challenge. You will do great in the Harriburg Marathon this year.


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