LATHAM, N.Y. – A sure sign of spring for the New York National Guard is the annual Sexual Assault Awareness 5-kilometer run.Held along with other events that make April Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, the race is staged each year to have fun and raise awareness, explained Chassidy Ryals, the sexual assault response coordinator at New York National Guard headquarters.At the headquarters, 100 to 150 people usually turn out for the run, which is often on a trail along the Mohawk River. But getting that many people in one place was a no-go this April because of social distancing requirements in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.So the decision was made to promote a virtual 5k instead.“We still wanted to acknowledge the day, and we wanted to acknowledge the challenges that people are facing and to get them outside and active,” she said.So she and the other organizers sent emails to Guard members around the state, encouraging them to run the 5k on their own and send in “selfie” photos of themselves running.They didn’t get the 100 that typically turn out, but they did get some, she said.One of those virtual racers was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jennifer Roshong, assigned to New York Army National Guard headquarters.She took part because she believes in the sexual assault awareness program.“I think it is important to keep the program alive and active so that victims won’t forget that there is help out there and there are people willing to support them,” Roshong said.Besides, she added, “I’ve always liked running on my own, with my own pace and in my own world.”The virtual 5k was a natural for her, Roshong said, but she’s hoping next year the race can be run as a group again.“More people seem to participate that way,” she said.Col. Jason Lefton, the State Aviation Officer and commander of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, also took part in the virtual run.He usually runs alone anyway, Lefton said, but he liked the idea of supporting the sexual assault awareness program, and he participates in the annual run anyway.The events are fun and it is a chance to share an athletic experience with other Soldiers while supporting a good cause, Lefton said.“As a battalion commander, it is important Soldiers know I take this seriously, and if they see me participate it will add emphasis to the discussions and information we put out in the unit,” he said.For more National Guard news: Guard Facebook: Guard Twitter: Guard COVID-19 Response: (COVID-19): from the CDC: Response: