Fort Walton Beach fitness enthusiasts will host the Okaloosa Quarantine Games, a virtual marathon competition in which teams of four can run, bike or row 26.2 miles together and raise money for closed local businesses.

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FORT WALTON BEACH — Jeff Mata was working out with a buddy in his neighborhood – running, rowing and biking – when he challenged his friend to a marathon.


The two started spitballing ideas from there.


“That’s when it branched off, ‘What if we can make it in a way that’s fun and encouraging for people to get up from the couch, get out of their house, promote fitness and at the same time benefit some of those closed businesses that aren’t making income?’” Mata said. “That’s when we decided, ‘Let’s create an online virtual competition people can sign up for.’”


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Mata teamed up with Rakish Fellow barber shop owner Cameron Linares ; Pryor Middle School teacher and coach Challiss Cappel and U.S. Air Force member Sabrina Reyes to make the Okaloosa Quarantine Games.


In the competition, teams of four will compete to finish a marathon individually. As their prize, the first three teams to finish will choose a gift card from a business in Okaloosa County that is closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.


Teams can register for the Games for $80 at eventbrite.com, and must also donate toilet paper or school supplies for Pryor Middle School’s low-income families. Proceeds will benefit closed local businesses. Team captains must also email their team name and full roster to quarantinegames2k20@gmail.com.


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To keep score, teams captains must submit their daily individual progress for each team member with a photo of the miles completed shown on a digital tracker, such as a pedometer or screen on electronic workout equipment.


“We’re going to provide a leadership update to the teams everyday,” Mata said. “There’s another category in addition to the first, second and third place: whoever accumulates the most distance – this way the rest of the teams have incentive to keep going. We did realize there are those people out there who don’t have anything to do that will be like, ‘A marathon doesn’t take me a long time. I’ll knock it out right now.’”


Mata said they will help team captains figure out how to submit their progress on a team by team basis. Because the distances will be submitted by the participants, the results will be integrity-based, Mata said.


“As long as the team captains can provide some kind of proof,” Mata said. “At the end of the day, this is to benefit the community in exercise and fitness. We want to make it fun and enjoyable.”


Mata likes the idea of letting the winners choose which closed local business from which to receive a gift card. He is not only an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force, but also a fitness coach at CrossFit Epically Awesome in Fort Walton Beach, which is currently closed.


“Gyms are in there, barber shops, beauty salons and a few restaurants (that) are not operating,” Mata said. “We want to emphasize those small businesses that have been affected and are not operating in any capacity due to COVID-19.”


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