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Connecting to Eau Claire through movement

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 5:50 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - “Seeing how all these streets are connected to each other is a metaphor for how we are all connected to each other,” says runner Alex Rongstad.

If you live in Eau Claire, Rongstad has run down your street and past your home.

“The more streets I ran on the more I realized there so much more out there to see,” Rongstad says.

He made a goal during the summer to run down every street of the city before the end of 2021.

“There’s all these main streets you take many people have been on but for every main street there’s ten side streets you end up driving by and don’t think anything about … By going down one street you’re opening up a thousand other streets or a thousand other way of viewing life,” Rongstad said.

Starting in early June, the 32-year-old Eau Claire native and current resident finished the challenge on December 12th.

“It definitely deepened my connection to the city I’ve never felt more connected to this space and I grew up here so that way a big part of the motivation wanting to see and know this town in a new perspective,” said Rongstad.

Six days a week he would begin each run from his home.

“The app I use has this function called ‘heat maps’ and it shows everywhere you’ve been in a certain area and I noticed there were so many streets and areas I never knew existed,” said Rongstad.

It took a lot of intricate mapping of neighborhoods he’d never experienced before. But one area of Eau Claire that he ran early on in his journey sparked his interest even more. It was one part of town where maps weren’t necessary.

“There was a breakthrough moment running through my old neighborhood, the bubble I grew up in, and memories started to flood through every street I run down and I thought everyone must have this to some extent so if I can just by running down a street feel connected to them through just the space we live in that’s a real experiential connection that we share,” Rongstad said.

Most of the running Rongstad did by himself, but on the final day of the challenge he sent out an open invitation for anyone to join in.

“I didn’t take a step alone, there was always someone there handing me off ... My dad showed up ... tons of great people from the community,” said Rongstad.

For him, this experience was all about connecting to the community through movement.

“I’ve always loved running because it’s so simple it’s this very natural motion we were born to do,” Rongstad said.

However, seeing him run throughout the town you wouldn’t realize that at one point his ability to run was nearly taken away.

“When I was quite young, I want to say eight, I was diagnosed with osteomyelitis a bone infection it was in my left ankle they said they didn’t know if I’d ever run again and I always get a kick out of that later in life I had a collapsed lung I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2018 so like a lot of signs would have pointed to this not being a thing. But that’s another reason why I wanted to do this project to show people who maybe would never consider running you can definitely do this,” said Rongstad.

Now that he’s been down each street and seen every part of his hometown, he hopes his journey can teach and inspire others.

“Take that turn you never would have taken. See something new and you’ll be amazed it will surprise you what is out there … You have so much power and potential in you no matter who you are and if you believe in something there’s nothing that can stop you,” said Rongstad.

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