As Britain (and the world) adjusts to social distancing, our daily routines have been thrown into disarray. You might find yourself asking ‘Do I even need to get dressed anymore?’ (Yes), is it OK to spend all day binging Tiger King (Not only is it ‘OK’, it’s essential) and, really, how hard should I be working to get that isolation six pack?
The fact that Boris’ ‘soft lockdown’ announcement made provisions for daily exercise is a sure fire sign that as a nation, we’ve come to understand just how vital exercise is for our bodies and minds; that we’re still allowed out for a jog around the park in the midst of a pandemic is no small thing.
But, with the simple act of lacing up and getting out potentially putting your health or that of stranger at risk, it’s clear we need a smarter approach to our daily jog. With that in mind, we tracked down some of the best runners around and asked their advice on staying safe and outpacing illness.
I want to respect Coronavirus social distancing rules, but my usual route is pretty busy. What do I do?
“Speeding up to pass every person you see might make your run a little too sweaty,” says Stephen Scullion, a professional runner representing both Ireland and Under Armour. “I've done my best to be courteous to others. Often it's meant having to slow down and wait on the curb side, or if the road is clear I might even cross over to a footpath nearby.”
“I think the best thing you can do is be alert to your surroundings, and that might mean turning the volume of music down to ensure you can hear people around you and not get distracted,” he continues. “Remember to exercise safely; if we stick to the social isolation and keep the two metre distance we can shake this virus much quicker and the pandemic can pass. We can literally save lives by being obedient to rules.
Some pedestrians don’t seem to be getting the two metre message. What do I do about them?
“I’d hammer on the brakes, [if it’s safe to] jump in the road, and try and catch their eye,” says Jules Widdowson, an ultramarathon runner who was due to run the Marathon des Sables for Walking With The Wounded before coronavirus grounded her plans. “I’m trying to anticipate people coming into my path and make it clear from a distance which side of the path I’ll take to keep that social distance. It’s a more considerate way of running. It’s not just about me and my run now, but about impact on others too. And I’m not taking it personally when people literally turn their backs to me and hold their breath as I run past…”
How can I keep pushing myself towards my fitness goals?
“Be smart about your route,” advises ultra-runner and one of the experts behind The Running Channel, Anna Harding. “Dog walkers and other people out walking will probably all have decided to head to the local park. Instead, you could do laps around your block and time them to give yourself some healthy competition (against yourself) to see if you can beat that time. Try an ‘out-and-back’ route from your door. Run the out bit at a steady pace and then try and run the back bit a bit faster.”
I’m having a great run, but there’s another runner following the same route at the same speed. What do I do?
“If you notice yourself having to change pace regularly to avoid contact with another runner, take a second to assess whether there’s a nearby footpath you could change to,” advises Stephen. “If that’s not an option, consider changing direction. That said, you might just find slowing down for 0.5 mile might allow the person in front or close to head in a different direction to your route.”
Social distancing sucks. I miss my run club. What can I do?
“I'm a bit of a lone wolf runner but during this time I’ve been scouring Strava for runners and endurance athletes,” says Gordon Clark, captain of Los Angeles’ Koreatown Run Club. “This allows you to run the same routes, and see how you fare against other athletes. A segment ‘Crown’ is awarded to top overall, and top male and female. I’ve made it a point to steal or "poach" all of the crowns in my immediate neighbourhood. This fuels my competitive fire. Plus, my club hosted an IG Live with our two resident running doctors/surgeons, fielding questions about the virus, prevention, social distancing and running, et al. Check online for Insta Live opportunities and Strava competitions near you.”
I feel fine. My friends feel fine. Surely we can run together if we keep our distance?
“Friends of mine recently asked about going out for a long run together,” says Gordon. “It’s a sacred thing for the long distance runner. I thought ‘They're in fine health, we'll keep a bit of distance, why not?’ But with all the runners across the world staying in or running solo, hosting indoor virtual workouts, in the end I knew we couldn’t risk it.”
Is the onus on runners or pedestrians to make space?
“The key thing to remember is give others plenty of warning that you’re coming (perhaps a friendly ‘on your right’) and make every effort to give others space,” says Anna. “The easiest way to do this is keep left. It’s what we’d do on the roads and it’s the unwritten rule for runners on canal towpaths up and down the country before this all started. There isn’t an us / them divide between runners / pedestrians. We are all human beings. We are all capable of being sensible and social distancing shouldn’t suddenly be a problem because you’re running and not walking.”
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