Long-distance runners will be the first to tell you that struggles build friendships.

Whether it’s at 4 a.m. or during a 5K at the Festival of Flowers, runners are doing more than just competing, they are growing the sport. And here in Greenwood, long-distance running has taken a foothold in the form of running communities that get up every day to keep active.

Cheneda Jordan Nelson, is in not one, but three of these communities, allowing her to continue to do something she has done since high school.

“To me (running) is relaxing,” Nelson said. “It settles my soul. It sounds funny but it kind of gives me a fresh start starting point and I like early morning workouts. That way when I go to work, I’m already calm and that’s what I like about it.”

Nelson moved down to Greenwood approximately two years ago. Originally from Pennsylvania, Nelson said she was involved with an active running group, but when she moved down, she didn’t know of any running groups, opting to run on her own.

“I didn’t know where to find (a running group) or anything,” Nelson said. “One morning I went out for a run and I saw two runners and asked if I could run with them. They said ‘Yes’ and that’s how it went.”

The group continued to meet even during the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining social distancing as they continued to push each other toward their best times.

It’s one of Nelson’s favorite things about running, the community bond they share that act as a team.

“What running means to everyone is different,” Nelson said. “For me, it’s the community. I can run by myself, but running with someone else and (building) that friendship brings something else to the room for me.”

Nelson has her sights set on running in the Boston Marathon one day. Although many runners are content with running in the prestigious marathon, Nelson said she enjoys the training and the “suffering” a runner goes through to compete at that level.

“You have to follow a plan to the best of your ability,” Nelson said. “You can see yourself improving over a cycle and you usually do it with someone else or a group. You all have that common goal and no matter how you do at the race you have those people cheering you on.”

Contact sports writer James Benedetto at 864-223-1814 or follow on Twitter @james_benedetto.