From Westin to Harbor Park, COVID-19 pushes runners to new venue for annual charity run

Posted at 12:29 PM, Sep 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-12 20:58:57-04

NORFOLK, Va. - It had been months since the grassy field at Harbor Park saw action, until Saturday. The stands became the field for this year's "Step Up For The Up Center" run, which raises money for the Up Center, a nonprofit organization helping needy families and children in Hampton Roads.

The charity run has raised over $375,000 in the last four years and usually attracts about 300 runners.

"I feel like my heart rate's up,” Luke Barton, one of the runners, said after running the course. “I feel exhilarated, I'm not normally up this early on a Saturday morning."

Organizers told News 3 there were over 40 participants at the stadium. Some of the runners were from the Norfolk Sheriff's Office.

"Whether it's five, 10, 15, 20 of us, we can get together,” Kimberly Bean, the health and wellness coordinator with the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, said. “It's hard these days to do that because of our different schedules, but we make it happen every year."

Standing beside Bean were deputies and members of the sheriff’s office. She said they participate in the run each year.

Before the coronavirus, the event was held at the Westin at Towne Center in Virginia Beach, where participants would run up the 37 flights of stairs in the building. It is considered the tallest building in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

The pandemic, however, did not allow Step Up to host the run again at the Westin, but it was determined to make sure it continued. That is how Harbor Park was chosen - an outdoor setting with no enclosed spaces.

"People love to come out and do this,” Katie McCarthy, the marketing manager for the Up Center, said. “They love to come out and do something active and healthy while helping their community."

Though the venue was different, the runners said they did not mind.

"This year, though, being outside with this 70-degree weather, you can't beat it,” Barton said. “I love baseball and I've missed coming out here and seeing the green grass, it's just a great experience."

There was also a virtual session for those who could not come to Harbor Park, courtesy of Unify Fitness.

Runners had to run up and down the steps on the top-center portion of the bleachers three times to equal the total number of steps it would have taken to run up the Westin – a total of 777 steps, according to the Up Center. Some ran more than three times.

Participants received a medal, shirt and water bottle after the competition. Those that participated via Unify Fitness’ virtual live stream would get their medals shipped to them, McCarthy said.

"If you're not doing it, you're missing out,” Barton said.

For those who were unable to participate in this year's run but would still like to help the Up Center, you can do so by donating through the Up Center's website.