GREAT FALLS — Run, walk, roll — Special Olympics Montana has athletes around the state working to get their steps in. The Stride Challenge is a new competition created to keep athletes active and provide a sport that allows social distancing.
Athletes choose their step goal to achieve or exceed within eight weeks. Light activity - athlete should aim for 50-100 thousand steps or 25-50 miles. Moderate activity - athlete should aim for 200 thousand steps or 100 miles. High activity - athletes should aim for 300 thousand steps or 150+ miles.
There are various ways athletes can compete. As an individual in age divisions 12 and under, 13-20, 21-40, 41-60, and 61+. Team options include Traditional team (4 athletes), Traditional pair (two athletes), Unified team (two athletes and two non-athletes), and Unified pair (1 athlete, 1 non-athlete).
Winter Gazzero and Bryn Shine are two Great Falls athletes competing as a traditional pair team called "The Dog Walkers." The duo walk four miles everyday with their beloved dachshunds and have logged nearly 450,000 steps so far. That puts them first place in their division.
At the end of the challenge, the top three steppers in each category will take home sport-related prizes. Gazzero says she’s doing it “to get some exercise.” Shine says its fun for her “because it feels good to get all your energy out. It feels awesome.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic most of Special Olympics Montana’s program have gone virtual. Bill Salonen, the Director of Innovation for Special Olympics MT, thinks the stride challenge is the perfect way to keep athletes connected saying, “My goal is to keep our athletes moving and keep them engaged. We know that they’re isolated in this time— they’re an isolated group to begin with and even more so now with COVID-19. We’re pleased to know that they’re getting their daily exercise as they get their steps in. I’m enjoying the weekly contact, back and forth with them too and with their families as we do this.”
Winners of the Stride Challenge will be announced on February 28th. You can check the leaderboard and follow their progress on the SOMT Facebook page.