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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Running off a year of COVID-19

Running soared in popularity at UF after the outbreak of COVID-19

<p>Adam Conybear, a 21-year-old junior studying computer science, runs up the stairs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on March 9.</p>

Adam Conybear, a 21-year-old junior studying computer science, runs up the stairs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on March 9.

Juliette Clavier and Hannah Whittle lace up their sneakers and hit the sidewalks, every step takes their mind further from a year in a pandemic-ridden world.

The pandemic offset the traditional course of college. Restaurants closed, classes became remote and life shifted to a primarily online platform. Some students sought out hobbies, including drawing, cooking and writing.

Running gained more traction with the pandemic’s progression. Clavier, a 21-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesiology junior, and Whittle, a 20-year-old UF psychology junior, found their passion for running at The Swamp. 

They ran a stadium — one lap around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium’s first floor — for the first time last March when campus closed for the semester. They started running stadiums because of gym closures and made workouts with chairs and other equipment.

The duo exercises in The Swamp once a week and freshens up on leg and arm workouts. At the start of the pandemic, campus resembled a ghost town, so there were no eyes on the two while they worked out, Clavier said.  

As summer turned to fall, runners swarmed the stadium.

Clavier and Whittle run about twice a week, though it takes some get-up-and-go willpower at times. Clavier said staying on top of it makes her feel accomplished and healthy afterward.

“While I’m going, the only thing I’m focused on is to keep going,” Whittle said. “All the other stressors I have are released.”

With mental health challenges, college students use running as an outlet for their stress.

For 20-year-old UF philosophy senior Juan Serrano, running is an old hobby with a new meaning. He started running in middle school and now does so to stay in shape. 

Serrano runs three to four times a week because of the pandemic. It gives him an excuse to leave his apartment and enjoy the outdoors, he said.

“I come to a brick wall, where I just can’t focus as much or I feel I just need to procrastinate on some assignments,” he said. “Being able to go outside and run helps me kinda clear my mind.”

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Serrano runs around SW 13 Street and University Avenue and said the empty roads that surround campus give him serenity.

Elliot Haynes, a 19-year-old UF education sophomore, began running her first semester of college. She joined her Delta Zeta sorority sisters at the beginning of the pandemic and hasn’t looked back since.

“They (Delta Zeta) introduced me to it, and I just started coming out here because it was a good form of exercise,” Haynes said.

She frequents The Swamp about five times a week and runs up and down the stairs and along the field’s outer frame. Haynes runs to get out of the house and stay healthy, she said.

Running fulfills the COVID-19-enacted void plunged into students’ lives. In a year defined by uncertainty, runners know they always have their shoes and the sidewalk to count on.

Contact Faith Buckley at and follow her on Twitter @_faithbuckley

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Faith Buckley

Faith is a third-year journalism student specializing in sports media. She hopes to one day work as a play-by-play announcer for the National Hockey League. 

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