“Who’s running with us tomorrow?”
For years, that used to be the most common question that came at the end of one of my training runs. We had a morning crew we called “The Knuckleheads.” We met every weekday morning at 5:45 a.m. for our laugh-filled runs, where we would tell tales of past races, and make plans for the next event, before pushing the pace beyond reasonable limits.
Of course, I was much younger in those days, but running with pals at a more modest pace while reliving memorable races from decades ago remained a wonderful part of my running life.
COVID-19 has stolen that part of my running life. Now, I head out on my own, but it is not all bad news, because I have found silver linings.
Perhaps the most startling change is the crowds I see out running or walking throughout my town. I am sure part of it is because of work-from-home rules, but it is wonderful to see so many people enjoying the outdoors - rain or shine. Everyone has a smile on their face - though some concealed by a mask - and a friendly greeting. I suspect there may even be some converts doing their daily walks that will begin to add in a bit of jogging.
I could never understand why I’d see so many runners wearing earbuds. I always preferred to chat with my friends on a run, or just listen to the sounds of nature. But I am now a convert, and getting smarter along the way. I am a big fan of podcasts - the New York Times “Daily,” Trevor Noah and “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” are my favorites - and also books on Audible make my runs go by quickly. Malcom Gladwell’s “Talking With Strangers” was fascinating, and I’m many hours into “Hamilton,” the book, not the musical.
But, I still miss the social aspect. I have so many great running friends that are a part of my extended family, whom I’ve been separated from, because of the new social distancing rules. Zoom meetings have been a saving grace, and seeing Facebook posts help, but we all look forward to getting back on the roads together.
In the meantime, the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has published guidelines for runners to follow that go along with the overarching CDC guidelines during this unprecedented time, and they are as follows:
- Don’t go out for a run or walk if you are feeling ill or have flu-like symptoms;
- Do practice social distancing, and ensure appropriate spacing between runners. The current recommendation is at least six to eight feet of separation;
- Do respect community regulations if parks, tracks and multi-use trails have been closed due to overuse during stay-at-home orders;
- Do run single-file, not two abreast unless there is ample public space to do so. Don’t force others off a sidewalk or trail by hogging the space;
- Do alter your route or time of day you run if you find it too crowded to ensure appropriate social distancing;
- Don’t spit or “nose rocket” your nose in public. Bring along tissues or a small towel or a good old-fashioned hanky if you need to get rid of some snot during your run/walk;
- Carry your own fluids and avoid contact with public water fountains.
- Do wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after using a port-a-john. As NPRA reminds people, prepare for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains;
- Don’t share towels, food, gels or any other item if you run or walk with family or one close friend;
- Do tactfully remind others you see out on your run to practice social distancing if you see groups of three or more;
- Do use sidewalks in your community. Most communities have ordinances requiring the use of sidewalks by pedestrians where available. Do not create unsafe driving situations for emergency vehicles by running down the middle of a road. The last thing the medical community needs right now is to treat avoidable accidents and injuries;
- And don’t post group selfies on social media after a run, because you shouldn’t be running in a group right now.
While RRCA is asking everyone to run alone for a period of time, keep in mind there are a lot of ways that groups can stay connected digitally to help maintain the important connection to the community, and to help motivate friends, while helping provide a healthy distraction from the news.
Though there is no clear answer as to when life will return to normalcy, hopefully we can carry with us the positive experiences we have learned during this unprecedented time. Now, get out for a run, and then wash your hands.
Tom Licciardello is a founding member of the Merrimack Valley Striders. Licciardello has participated in 35 Boston’s and 88 marathons altogether, and is a BAA Boston Marathon volunteer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Runners’ Corner column: Some helpful hints, while running through a pandemic
“Who’s running with us tomorrow?”