Leo Hedlund, 28, was ready to run like the wind, but a sore hamstring kept him from beating his personal best in the Night Runners WPB’s virtual Pride 5K that took place Dec. 4-6.

But regardless he still had fun, and it was for a good cause — thousands of dollars raised from the event will go to Compass’ youth programs.

“My goal was under 20 minutes,” Hedlund said. He ended up finishing with 21:06. A 5K is 3.1 miles. While he may not have hit his goal, he did well enough to come in sixth place out of the 77 competitors that logged their results online.

The LGBT running and walking group was in the middle of organizing a live race that would have taken place during Compass’ Pride weekend back in March. The LGBT community center’s pride events, along with the 5K, had to be scrapped because of the shutdowns.

“I am glad we’re a resilient group and we’re able to change plans and change stuff as needed. It was still pretty fun,” Hedlund said. “I’m always grateful for the running group. They’ve been such a great group of people to surround myself with.”

He ran the 5K with a handful of friends using a route through downtown West Palm Beach similar to the ones the group used to follow during their twice-weekly meetups on Monday and Thursday evenings.

Since the pandemic began the group has been holding virtual runs each week with members now submitting sweaty selfies for Instagram collages.

Oh, and by the way, Hedlund did get under 20 minutes a few months ago in another virtual 5K — before he hurt his leg. He said he’s grateful for these virtual events but said nothing can replicate the energy of a live race and he can’t wait for those to return.

“The energy is so much different. You can’t really replicate crossing the finish line in a live race,” he said. “All those people cheering you on and giving you that energy. You’re so excited. The end is right there. You can see it. At that point you’re racing to beat the clock instead of somebody else.”

So far the virtual Pride 5K has raised over $9,000 toward the $10,000 goal for Compass youth programs and HIV services. The group is still accepting donations at NightRunnersWPB.com/Donate.

“The enthusiasm was in the air all weekend while photos trickled in from local and out of state participants with Pride 5K shirts and medals,” said Rudolph R. Galindo, president of Night Runners. “From packet pick up through the end of the weekend. There was so much support and gratitude for this monumental virtual Pride event during a pandemic.”

In the end 261 people registered for the event.

Julie Seaver, executive director of Compass also participated in the virtual event.

“While many folks continued to stay fit during the pandemic, some of us did not. I was one of the ‘did nots’ so I really struggled during the Virtual 5K,” she confessed. She came in 70th place with a time of 54:08. “With the stress of pandemic, and being in crisis mode for months, I just didn’t have it in me to stick with it on my own.”

But regardless she stuck it out and finished the race. For that she’s proud.

“The beauty of the Night Runners is that no matter what your ability is — run, walk, or jog — they inspire you to get up and move anyway,” she said. “Whether it’s day one, day 301, or day one all over again — you’re always welcome in this group and they will always cheer for you. You don’t have to be a runner, or even a fast-paced walker, to be a part of the Night Runners — you just have to show up.”

As for Hedlund he’s already set himself a new goal — running a marathon. That’s 26 miles. Over the summer he attempted a half-marathon on his own.

“It took two and a half hours. I had to walk a lot, but I felt accomplished,” he said. “It makes me want to train even harder.”


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