Each week we interview members of our community to learn how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted their lives, and how they are adapting in these challenging times. Our quarantine interviewees are healthcare workers, small business owners, students, parents, service industry employees, and, of course, runners. We hope that by sharing the stories of our neighbors we can find inspiration, solidarity, and connection as a community in the coming weeks and months. Please enjoy! 

For the seventh installment of the series we catch up with Kim O’Connor. Kim is a teacher at Lewis and Clark Elementary, a mom, a Big Dipper Running Team athlete, and, overall, a great person. Read on to learn how Kim is taking care of herself and staying connected to her students, family, and friends during these strange times.

Kim jumping for joy on a run


First off, how long have you lived in Missoula?

I’ve lived in Missoula since 1993 when I moved here to go to UM.

Are you training for an upcoming race? If so, has it been canceled or postponed? If so, have you set any new goals?

The spring races I had planned to run are canceled or postponed. I’ll run 11 Miles to Paradise this fall. It will be fun to see the course at a different time of year. I always enjoy running with spring sprouting, but fall will be great too. I am doing my first 50K at The Rut in September. Fingers crossed!

What are you doing to maintain motivation and stay active right now?

Running, talking with friends, taking time for walks and hikes. I usually have time for all this. I’m finding the slow down nice. My dogs are really happy with this situation.

You are a teacher, correct? Where do you teach and which grades? As a teacher what does your workday look like during the quarantine?

I am. I teach 4th grade at Lewis and Clark School. Teaching from home is so different. I miss my students so much, and am sad I won’t get all the days with them. That being said, I think we’re making it work as well as we can.

My learning curve for technology has been steep! I see my kids through Zoom meetings and communicate through email. It’s such an unnatural way of teaching. I sit in front of the computer a lot of the day, meeting with them or correcting the work they send me or planning for the following week. I realized after week one that regular breaks outside are the only way to not feel crazy by the end of the day.

As a mom are you getting creative in finding ways to stay active with your family?

My boys are doing a lot of trampoline time and have set up some pretty cool parkour courses in the backyard. We’ve also been hiking and taking a lot of walks. Time at the creek has been helpful too. I often have them bike with me while I run. We go up to the bike track on Lincoln Hills and I do laps on the trail while they ride. Not my favorite run, but sometimes you take what you can get.

How are you investing in your mental health right now?

I am recording my gratitudes daily. I’m getting outside many times throughout the day. One of my neighbors asked me if I was injured since I’ve been walking so much. I’m also trying to be forgiving when I don’t have my best day. I’m thinking if I’m productive and can keep it together most days, that’s pretty good.

What are some of the largest ways that the COVID crisis has changed your life in recent weeks? (professionally, at home, etc.)

My job is the biggest change right now. I love teaching and it’s really hard to teach remotely. I can create lessons, but the teaching is so different. I miss my students and my colleagues. Helping my own kids with their work can be challenging too. I have found my youngest kid needs to take lots of breaks to stay focused. And that reading Romeo and Juliet aloud is just as painful as it was in high school.

Are there any silver linings or positive moments you have experienced in the last couple of weeks you would like to share?

There are silver linings for sure. First of all, my husband and I both have our jobs, and we’re all healthy. I’m always pretty grateful for my job and living in Missoula, but this reinforces it. The chance to slow down has been nice. Spring is usually such a busy time and we find ourselves all going in different directions sometimes. The forced stillness has been good. I’m not saying there haven’t been frustrating days, but, most days, I can see the extra family time as a gift.

Where are you finding inspiration right now? (books, music, podcasts, people, etc.)

We’ve had a lot more time for board games and puzzles. I also have more reading time than usual. I’m listening to my usual favorite podcasts like The Moth and Fresh Air, and my new favorite, Office Ladies. Pam and Angela from The Office review an episode of the show each week. Time suck? I’m calling it a brain break/ guilty pleasure.

How are you connecting with others during quarantine and social distancing?

I have a standing date with a couple friends to meet on Wednesdays and socially distance in a backyard. I’ve also been doing walk breaks with one of my neighbors who is also a colleague of mine. I also have more time to catch up with friends on the phone.

Do you have a favorite place to run in Missoula?

I live near the North Hills so that is often a go- to. I’ve been venturing over to Mount Jumbo too. I usually run on Sentinel from school at least once a week. I’m missing that.

What does the Missoula running community mean to you in a time like this?

I miss running with my friends. Running is usually a very social activity for me and I am missing that part of my life. Maybe I didn’t realize how much I rely on that time and those connections. It has been great to see so many people out moving. I imagine social distancing is much easier in Missoula. We’re lucky!
We enjoyed getting to hear from Kim and hope you did too! If you think this interview would add value to someone in your life, please consider sharing this article with them.

Also, if you are enjoying the Quarantine Q&A series, or have a question you would like us to ask our interviewees, let us know! Email Mike@runnersedgemt.com.

This edition of the Quarantine Q&A is brought to you by Sapphire Physical Therapy. Thank you Sapphire for supporting and celebrating these community stories!