Katie Sivertsen has always been an avid runner.

The physical education teacher at Point Higgins Elementary School, Sivertsen is always looking for the next opportunity to be active.

Just last weekend, she ran a 10K — all 6.2 miles virtually. It was a time trial, of sorts, as in the age of social distancing due to the novel coronavirus, virtual is becoming the new reality — at least for the time being.

“Virtual runs are super cool,” she said. “I mean, there are tons of them happening around the country right now because everybody is canceling everything probably until the fall, and potentially even further out. So the cool thing about a virtual race is that anybody can compete, anytime within a certain window, anywhere.”

The time trial was a test run for the Virtual Totem to Totem race — an idea Sivertsen proposed to the Ketchikan Running and Walking Club after the club decided to postpone the 38th Annual Totem to Totem Half Marathon originally scheduled next month until Sept. 12 because of COVID-19 and current social distancing guidelines.

With the official Totem to Totem race still on track for Sept. 12, the virtual race gives runners an opportunity to maintain an appropriate social distance, while still participating in one of the biggest races in town if they want to compete in May.

“We get numerous people out of state doing this,  (so) we also thought this would allow our other visitors to take part in it, if they had trained for it,” Gretchen Klein, the Totem to Totem race director, said. “You train for things, and you peak at a certain time. If they’re serious runners, they would’ve been peaking at about the time of the race. So they may still want to be running it (in May).”

Participants can opt to run or walk either a 5K or half marathon anytime between May 1 and May 25. The day is their choice; the course is their choice. They can even run it as many times as they want, and submit their best time.

All that participants need to do is download just one of a trio of free phone apps — Strava, RunKeeper or MapMyRun — and keep their phone with them during the route.

“It’ll track you as the same as any GPS watch would,” Sivertsen said.

The Virtual Totem to Totem is a free option, but if any competitor wants a Totem to Totem T-shirt and medal the cost is $60, or $30 for school-aged runners, according to a press release.

Klein said the money is fundraised for the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Diabetes Education Program.

“The actual running of the event is totally free,” Sivertsen said. “But if you want the medal and shirt, that’ll be $60, and you can sign up via Active.com, which is linked on the running club’s website.”

The virtual race doesn’t allow for relay teams to compete.

“The current social distancing guidelines for exercise are 20 feet,” Sivertsen said. “So how would you do your handoff? This is really something that you should be running by yourself, or with a member of your household, if you’re going to follow current social distancing guidelines. ... So that’s why there’s not a specific relay component.

“You start breathing hard and respirating all over, so now they say 20 feet if you’re exercising,” she continued.

The Ketchikan Running and Walking Club typically hosts several events throughout the season, including the Rotary Interact Color Run, Ken Teune Memorial Sourdough Stamp and Calamity Triathlon. But its original schedule has temporarily been put on hold.

This virtual option brings promise for other events in the foreseeable future.

“It’s as close as we’re going to get for the next few months, and that’s just kind of the way it is,” Sivertsen said. “It’s the writing on the walls. So it’s a way to support the running community, and just our community in general — health, fitness, getting out and getting active, and doing the things that we love to do. ... I think (this) is the next best thing, or it’s as close as I can think of to get there.”

The Totem to Totem half marathon was originally scheduled for May 9.

“These virtual runs are new for a lot of running clubs in a lot of communities,” Sivertsen said. “And again, it’s the situation that we find ourselves in. So we’re making lemonade out of lemons.”

Sending results

After completing either the 5K or half marathon between May 1 and May 25, the Ketchikan Running Club is asking participants to mark themselves across their individual finish line by posting a selfie to the club’s Facebook page, with the hashtag #Totem2Totem.

Individuals can post their results on the Ketchikan Running Club’s Strava page, using the free activity tracking app, or sent via email to Katie Sivertsen at katie.sivertsen@k21schools.org with the subject line “T2T Result.”

The email should have the participant’s name, gender, age (optional), either the 5K or half marathon listed, whether they walked or ran the course, and the final time.

All results are due by May 25.

Creating a Strava account

Participants can create a free account at Strava.com, join the Ketchikan Running Club’s page and choose the Virtual Totem to Totem Race.