When COVID-19 made much of the world stay at home, many people adopted pandemic projects, including Jake Schaner. A year later, while many of those hobbies have gone by the wayside, Schaner is still diligently working on his: running all of the streets in Denver.
The Northglenn High School psychologist and cross-country coach identifies as on again/off again runner, but mostly on: He's even finished two Boston Marathons. After the pandemic left him working remotely, he found himself bored not only of being confined to his Harvey Park home, but also tired of running the same routes. This led him to wonder: How long would it take to run all the streets in his neighborhood?
At the end of last March, he set off on a quest to answer this question, which ultimately took him several weeks to complete. "I really enjoyed seeing streets that I had driven by a hundred times but never been down," he says, "and how each run was totally different and kept me interested in seeing something new."
So after he finished with Harvey Park, Schaner decided to expand his goal to include all of the neighborhoods in Denver.
Luckily for Schaner, he'd already run a number of Denver's streets before the pandemic struck. Since moving to Colorado in 2013, he's completed 23 of the city's neighborhoods and clocked about 1,500 miles. He's run up 525.4 miles in 2021 alone, averaging seven minutes a mile. He uses a website, VeloViewer, to map the streets he's already run; a high-tech, hand-held sticky note to show the current route; and an app called Strava to track the runs in real time.
"I'll pick my next neighborhood — usually the most obvious, adjacent one— and look it up on Google Maps," he explains. "I use a website called VeloViewer to see a map of where I've run in that neighborhood. Then I'll sort of map out on a sticky note a route that seems like an efficient way to run on those streets. I'll take the sticky with me as a map of sorts, and use it to help me remember which roads to turn on."
The last year has been stressful, and while Schaner's goal keeps him going, he also uses running as a way to mitigate stress. "Running has always been a part of my life," he says, "and I really identify it as a part of my sense of self. Mostly, however, I need running to help me regulate my stress. I listen to audiobooks or podcasts when I run and, in the hour or so I spend on the road, I naturally tune out a lot of my own thoughts and feel really present in where I'm running and how my body is feeling. It's the best way for me to disconnect from screens and various depressing news of the day. I can be kind of grouchy and irritable when I'm not running regularly."
At a time when people have been stuck at home, unable to travel, Schaner says the running project provided a bit of reprieve, too. "I love seeing Denver from all kinds of different angles," he says. "There are times when I get to the top of a hill and see downtown with a whole different perspective, or come across some unique house or really underrated park.
"There are so many hidden gems that I would never have noticed without going and spending time there. I've felt a lot closer to the city since I started this."
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