While running is often a social endeavor, something run specialty stores across the U.S. celebrate with pub runs, races and other themed events, the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded the social activity become a solo one.

Rather than dodging that temporary reality, Philadelphia Runner has embraced the forced transition with its PR Solo Challenge and an unwavering mission to #KeepPhillyRunning.

Launched on March 17, the campaign invites runners to share their miles and favorite local running routes, while store staff have marked courses and hosted pop-up challenges with prizes.

“With everything going on, we can all do our part to practice social distancing while staying socially connected,” Philadelphia Runner said upon announcing the PR Solo Challenge on Facebook, Instagram and email.

Philadelphia Runner co-owner Ross Martinson describes the PR Solo initiative as an attempt to “stay positive and keep our community going.”

The novel effort came together quickly, a nod to Philadelphia Runner’s motivated team as well as its community-driven spirit. Over the March 14-15 weekend, store leadership brainstormed ideas and crafted the PR Solo framework. On March 16, Philadelphia Runner created a Facebook group before introducing PR Solo the following day. Within one week, the group boasted more than 1000 members.

“When we had to cancel our group runs, the first thing we asked ourselves was how we could uplift others, keep connections going and deepen our relationship with the running community,” Philadelphia Runner’s outreach and marketing manager Liz Pagonis says. “The PR Solo Challenge is our way of connecting people and sharing miles, even if we can’t do it side by side.”

During the campaign’s shortened first week, Philadelphia Runner challenged participants to chase a personal best in the mile. In week two, PR Solo graduated to the 5K distance. An evolving initiative amid the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing swirl, Pagonis says future challenges will likely involve longer distances, hills and daily streaks.

“We’ll continue to develop weekly challenges and find creative ways to engage our community,” Pagonis promises.

On the PR Solo Facebook group, runners have celebrated personal bests and near-personal bests as well as the positive jolt of energy a hard-charging run provided.

“I am getting faster and am this close to hitting my 5K personal best from three years ago. Missed it tonight by eight seconds,” Nikki said on March 26.

“I let my legs run wild in this beautiful weather and they finished with negative splits for this #5kweek2 #PRsolo,” Mikki wrote that same day. “I wasn’t trying to PR but rather wanted to see where my body and mind took me for 3.1 miles.”

Participants are encouraging others, praising successes, liking photos and discussing running routes, collective efforts that are bringing connection and purpose to present-day times that can spark feelings of isolation and weariness.

“Every day, we’re hearing from people excited that we’re putting a good face on tough times,” Pagonis says.