In late 2019, the novel coronavirus emerged as a global threat to public health. Well into 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way we live, work, socialize, and exercise — running included.
Let’s start with the basics of coronavirus
Before we dig into the running world’s response to COVID-19, here’s a refresher on the basics of the virus and the disease it causes:
Note: All information sourced from the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- Coronaviruses are a common type of virus, but the new or “novel” coronavirus has been identified as a highly contagious virus that causes the illness now known as COVID-19.
- COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and quickly spread around the world.
- The virus spreads when an infected person releases droplets into the air — sneezing, coughing, speaking, etc.
- The virus has an incubation period — a time when people who have contracted the virus do not yet display symptoms — of about two weeks.
- Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, shortness of breath, unexplained loss of the sense of smell or taste, sore throat, diarrhea, muscle aches, or headache.
To slow the spread of the virus, governments around the world implemented emergency measures, many of which directly impacted athletes: closing parks, gyms, and pools, introducing social distancing guidelines, and prohibiting group activities.
Athletes turn to running
With gyms closed and exercise classes canceled, people have turned — or returned — to the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. But even solo outdoor runs can’t guarantee safety from the coronavirus.
Before you lace up, check out the tips below, and research your local civic rules and regulations for more detailed guidelines.
- If you have the option between indoor and outdoor running, head outside — airflow helps disperse droplets faster than indoor environments.
- Whether indoors or out, maintain at least six feet between you and the nearest person — more, if possible.
- Choose less popular routes or run at off-peak times to enable social distancing
- Wear a mask or buff that you can pull up around your nose and mouth if you have to pass runners, cyclists, or other pedestrians in close proximity.
These precautions require some adjustment, but the many benefits of running far outweigh the inconvenience.
Running for physical and mental health
Without local races or group runs to provide external motivation, runners are tuning in to running’s mental and emotional benefits. Exercise such as running has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Getting outside for a run can be an outlet from the stress of health concerns, job loss or increased workload, child care, or being inside all the time. No matter the speed or distance, a run can provide much-needed alone time, a break from a growing inbox, a chance to get fresh air, and an opportunity to focus on your well-being.
Missing the thrill of racing?
Despite the lack of typical road races, runners haven’t given up on personal goals. Race organizations are transitioning from thousands of people running together along specific routes to new, virtual formats. To race, runners register and complete the allotted distance within a specific time window and provide proof of their time to earn a medal, race shirt, and other celebratory swag.
Virtual races can be a great option for runners who want to stay focused on their fitness goals. To participate in a virtual event, check out race websites to find out which races have adopted a virtual format. Even better, call up a local running store. The staff is likely to know exactly how you can plug into the running and racing community — even if it’s online instead of on the roads.
Here’s to the future
We’re all still struggling to understand the long-term effects of coronavirus and COVID-19. The running world, like other professional and amateur sports, will need to adapt. But runners are tough. We’re resilient. And we support each other through tough times. The miles may be solo for now, but when we come back together, those side-by-side strides will feel even smoother, and the clink of post-run beers will sound all the sweeter.