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Ringing In Spring brings sense of normalcy to post-pandemic racing
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LOCAL RUNNING

Ringing In Spring brings sense of normalcy to post-pandemic racing

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It’s been a tough year for everyone while fighting through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The close-knit running community was no exception. After all, “close-knit” was prohibited in most aspects of life due to social distancing.

But Northwest Indiana running has returned close to pre-pandemic numbers with the annual Ringing in Spring back in April as a prime example.

Back in 2019, the Ringing in Spring had just over 800 finishers. This year the April event had 915 pre-registered runners and 822 finishers, according to Todd Henderlong, who runs T&H Timing and owns the Extra Mile running shop in Valparaiso with his wife Heather.

“Races that were canceled in 2020 gave entrants a few options,” Henderlong said. “They could get a refund or defer to this year. Some did virtual runs. The Ringing in Spring (organizers) went with deferring, so some of entrants signed up almost two years ago.”

Henderlong’s website illustrates how everyone, not just runners, felt last spring. Under April in the list of 2020 results, it says, “Let’s all agree to pretend April never happened, OK?”

T&H Timing helped the local running community cope with the pandemic quickly as it organized the first official Northwest Indiana running event after that forgettable April.

The Social Distance 5K took place on May 16, 2020 in Valparaiso, and it took a lot of work to make it happen safely.

“We staggered starting times and had people cycle through all morning,” Henderlong said. “The race had to be approved by the City of Valparaiso and the Porter County Health Department, which was at the race making sure everything was done safely. There were no water stops, no awards ceremony and race packets were picked up ahead of time.”

This year’s Ringing in Spring still had some of the same precautionary measures: face coverings when not running, staggered starts with runners having 10-minute windows to head out.

“We didn’t want a thousand people showing up right at the beginning,” Henderlong said. “It was 100 runners going out every 10 minutes.”

Most of the participants didn’t mind since they just wanted to be back to some form of normalcy in the close-knit community.

“It was nice to compete and see friends while social distancing,” said Chad Lawless of Kouts, who finished first in the masters division and eighth overall. “Most were still wearing masks up to the starting line, but it felt normal again.”

It was a sort of reunion for female overall winner Jordan Chester, who is 10 years removed from graduating from Boone Grove High School as one of the Region’s most successful prep runners.

“It was a slightly different atmosphere with some COVID restrictions, but it was so nice to finally see people I hadn’t seen in a long time,” said Chester, who now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Even though I no longer live there, it always feels like I’m ‘home’ when I come race there again.”

It was a memorable return since Chester fulfilled one of her childhood dreams.

“Ever since I was a little girl running with the Calumet Region Striders, I always wanted to win that race because I loved the overall bell award they presented to the winner,” she said.

Among her other goals were competing in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials (she did that in February) and running in the Boston Marathon, which she hopes to do in October as that famous race returns for its 125th installment after a two-year hiatus.

Father-son finish

Lawless earned another masters title and finished third overall in the Dad’s Day 5K last Sunday at Countryside Park in Portage. Finishing about 45 seconds ahead of him in second place was his son, Reed, who just graduated from Morgan Township and will be running for Vincennes University in the fall.

“He was beating up on old dad,” Chad said. “I’d say about 30% or so were still wearing masks up to the start line with a 10 to 15 minute open start and an awards ceremony.”

The overall winner was Steven Jarvis of Valparaiso, who was seven seconds faster than Reed Lawless with 17:36.7, while the top female runner was Cassandra Cohen of Hobart.

Submissions for future running notes can be sent to Johnny Gorches by email. Reach him at johnnygorches@yahoo.com.

Submissions for future running notes can be sent to Johnny Gorches by email. Reach him at johnnygorches@yahoo.com.

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