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Fight Quarantine Blues and Track Down Clues: COVID ‘Marathon’ Combines Activity, History, Charity

Luc Anthony, photos by Janae Breunig

The EC Covid Clues Ma_ra_th_on will take participants along pathways throughout the city, helping them learn about local history and landmarks.
The EC Covid Clues Ma_ra_th_on will take participants along pathways throughout the city, helping them learn about local history and landmarks.

How does one stay athletic when athletics are dormant?

That is a question confronting plenty of western Wisconsinites throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Sports seasons were canceled or postponed, from the national pros to local leagues, and about the only thing one could regularly and safely do to maintain activity is walk or run.

Thankfully, Eau Claire is quite friendly for such activities, and has a wealth of history along its walkways and trails. This was the inspiration for Andy Brown (you may recall him from a 2016 column on how he visited all 30 Major League Baseball teams’ stadiums), Aaron Athas, and Jed Stutzman, to create the Visit Eau Claire EC Covid Clues Ma_ra_th_on, starting May 14 and, well, running through June 10.

“While we were walking around, we discovered tons of cool history, landmarks, and routes around Eau Claire. As we were considering joining another virtual event we noted, ‘Why don’t we create something for Eau Claire?’ ” –Andy Brown, co-founder, EC Covid Clues Ma_ra_th_on, on the inspiration for the event

Brown told me that the concept originated while the three were partaking in the March Sadness virtual walk. “While we were walking around, we discovered tons of cool history, landmarks, and routes around Eau Claire. As we were considering joining another virtual event we noted, ‘Why don’t we create something for Eau Claire?’ ”

Each week for the duration of Covid Clues, maps will be released to the public. Brown says that routes tend to follow either the Eau Claire Marathon course or a path near city landmarks. “There are some creative route names based on location and history, like Burning Rubber, Fly Me to the Moon, The Whipple Ripple, etc.”

As you traverse throughout each route, you will follow trivia and photographic clues from the map. Find answers, note them, take selfies, and submit everything by the end of that week (each week lasts from Thursday through Wednesday).

Answers will be rich with the story of Eau Claire. Says Athas, “Whether you've lived here for 25 years or are a student here, you'll find the city has an incredible history that's well-documented through our routes. Lumber barons, doctors, even NASA and famous musicians; they all left their mark on the area.”

The EC Covid Clues Ma_ra_th_on comes at a perfect time. While I have witnessed numerous people walking, folks staying at home due to the pandemic could be suffering adverse health effects, Athas said: “The WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both. Just because we are in a quarantine doesn't mean you should stop physically taking care of yourself.”

Of course, Eau Claire has apparently done a stellar job social distancing, thus far tallying low coronavirus infection rates. Athas recognizes that coming months will be key to keeping this trend intact; simultaneously, an event like Covid Clues could lift our spirits, as we still need to maintain caution. “When we created this challenge, the idea was to find something we thought could inspire joy in our community while learning about the city, getting active, and supporting the local business community that makes this area thrive. Races and festivals can't be replaced, but we can find ways to spread some joy.”

If you partake, not only do you care for your body and stay safe, but you help others. All participants are being asked to donate to the Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation Homeless Program, the UWEC Foundation Campus Harvest Food Pantry, or Feed My People Food Bank. Brown says these three beneficiaries were chosen “because of realizing their need for help during these difficult times through social media, personal connections to the organizations, and suggestions from Visit Eau Claire.”

And you could win a prize. Anybody with 20 or more correct weekly answers will be placed in a drawing for goodies from local businesses – which means incentive to support our area stores. Additionally, the EC Covid Clues Medallion Hunt will lead to a grand prize from Visit Eau Claire.

Taking part in Covid Clues will help you become more connected to our area. Says Athas, “I can't wait to (have) people learn about that new restaurant that you never knew existed, that old house that housed an early town settler, a new walking route to jog or take the kids when the weather is nice, and a new way to learn how small organizations can make a big impact in our community.” That sums it up nicely. Just remember: no trespassing.


Learn more about the Eau Claire Covid Clues Ma_ra_th_on at https://www.eauclairecovidclues.org.