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Apple Valley 5K Everyday Conversations participants walk and talk together on Johnny Cake Ridge Road before starting a run together on April 18.

Just after 8 a.m. on a recent sunny Sunday morning, a small group gathered in the parking lot of Falcon Ridge Middle School in Apple Valley.

Each person’s arrival was staggered. Their greetings were cordial as they took a few minutes to wait and see if additional people would show up. On that particular day, the group totaled six.

They began walking north on Johnny Cake Ridge Road and turned west onto McAndrews. They kicked off the latest 5K Everyday Conversations Apple Valley gathering by talking about pets and how tough it is to say goodbye. Another person brought up an observation about the last time they went running. By the time they reached a pedestrian bridge crossing over McAndrews, four people began running while the last two people continued at their walking pace.

Among the runners and walkers who gathered on April 18 were Lena Lim, of Apple Valley, and Peter Elbridge, of Bloomington and formerly of Apple Valley. Both have been involved with helping Apple Valley to join a movement that’s spread across the Twin Cities for over a year. 5K Everyday Conversations seeks to bring people together to chat while they run or walk for 3.1 miles.

“Every time I joined this group, everyone is so welcoming,” Lim said. “(They) will talk to you; they will never leave you behind.”

5K Everyday Conversations was founded in 2019 by Minneapolis resident JC Lippold. People began gathering together at different locations around the metro. The in-person conversations came to a halt with the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020, but people continued to connect through Facebook Live and Instagram Live, Elbridge said

The runs resumed once some of the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted for gatherings, according to Elbridge. Lippold said there are now around 15 regular runs all over the Twin Cities each week. 5K Everyday Conversations is a “social movement with the intent of up-valuing the simple acts of conversation and movement.”

“Our Apple Valley run on Sunday mornings meets at Falcon Ridge Middle School and has been excitedly received from the start as many of the attendees have been driving to other 5K Everyday Conversations around the Twin Cities,” Lippold said in an email. “With Bloomington and St. Paul being the nearest runs, people are excited to have one south of the river.”

Apple Valley’s Sunday runs began March 14. Elbridge, who lived in Apple Valley from 2012 to 2015 and has been a member of the Apple Valley Toastmasters Club, attended his first 5K Everyday Conversations run at the Mall of America in January 2020 and has participated at other locations since. Because of his connections to Apple Valley, he wanted to bring some of the experiences he’d had at other locations to the city, he said.

Lim said she met Elbridge through Toastmasters and he began talking to her about bringing a 5K Everyday Conversations to Apple Valley, she was interested in moving forward with it. She had also attended other runs in Bloomington and Lake Nokomis. The conversations she had with those groups stayed with her, she added.

“I want to share this type of experience with other people,” she said.

The groups getting together on Sundays have ranged from six to around 20 people in size. Some come nearly every week while others might show up once or more sporadically.

Elbridge, who is an avid runner, said 5K Everyday Conversations isn’t just a running group, because participants are not required to run. Some people may choose to walk, depending on the pace they choose to take that day.

There’s no set structure on how the conversations will proceed or move forward.

“I’ve seen it range from super casual, to really deep and meaningful and personal conversations where people are able to speak up about things that they need to feel heard about, or ... ask for advice or for feedback and stuff like that,” Elbridge said.

Elbridge said he’s learned from attending these runs that while they can provide a way to start friendships, he’s also found value in having meaningful conversations with someone he may never see again.

“I think sometimes we kind of equate conversation and communication with friendship. And what I’ve learned is they’re so different and they’re both important. So you can go have wonderful conversations with total strangers and get different kinds of things out of it than you would from hanging out with a friend,” he said. “So I have made friends and it’s a great place to make friends. And you do not need to make friends there. You can also just ... need a chat and leave it that.”

Lim said people most often interact with others they have some commonalities with like professions, being parents or having the same interest. She said it’s a different experience to meet strangers who are so willing to share. There’s no judgment or emotional baggage.

“I thought it was so freeing and I share my own thoughts on my mind that day,” she said.

Apple Valley’s 5K Everyday Conversations generally meets at 8 a.m. Sundays at the Falcon Ridge Middle School parking lot, 12900 Johnny Cake Ridge Road. Get more information or updates about schedule changes at https://tinyurl.com/8cusv4bd or by following @5keverydayconversations on Instagram.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@apgecm.com.

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