3/30 – Running in the Time of COVID-19

Practices canceled. Social distancing enforced. Shelter-in-place laws enacted. Races of all distances canceled or postponed. Even the 2020 Olympics are postponed to 2021, too. All of this is part of the new normal that we runners (and non-runners too!) find ourselves in. These adjustments may be overwhelming, stifling, and depressing. They may feel unfair and upsetting. You may have trained for days, weeks, months, or even years for that new goal race or time. And now, you may feel a sense of loss or lack of purpose because there is no specific date or race to work towards. But all is not lost. All those miles have almost certainly imparted a few life lessons that you can use during this difficult time. Lean into them.

So, here’s a little reminder of what running has already done for you to help get you through the COVID-19 outbreak. Because staying home and away from others is not only necessary and important, but it is also vital to protecting yourself, your friends and family, the barista at your favorite coffee shop, the dog walker that comes twice a week to walk your dog, and not to be dramatic, but also the rest of humanity.

Here are four lessons that running has already taught you to keep you mentally and physically healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Accept what you can control, and adapt to the things that you cannot. You may have experienced waiting in long lines before a race, only to be caught sitting on a porta potty when the gun goes off. You may have had your shoe untie in the first 100m turn of a 5000m race on the track. You may have lost your gels during the marathon and had to try out new ones at mile 18. You may have forgotten to wear a trash bag and gotten soaked on the start line. We may not be able to control everything that is going on with COVID-19 just like we can’t always control what happens in running, but we sure as hell know how to adapt. Bad races give runners perspective. There are things in running that you just simply cannot control, no matter how much you prepare, but learning to make the most out of a jog, workout, or race can completely change the way you feel about the outcome. Running is all about adapting. So, let us, runners, adapt.
  • Every crisis is an opportunity. Everyone remembers that time two months ago when you couldn’t be bothered to do abs after practice or those pre-hab exercises you’ve had on your to-do list for years. You know all too well what your body’s weaknesses are, and now you can spend all of your time doing those embarrassing-looking, but super effective glute and hip exercises that all the runners are posting on the on the internet. And if that doesn’t float your boat, you can use this time to finally dust off your favorite cross-training companion, that bicycle that’s been in the backyard or garage for way too long and can now get your adrenaline going almost as much as Carl’s workouts. Almost. Even though you may not be able to run campus loops with the team, you can still make the most out of this extra indoor time. Stave off those injuries, do those PT exercises,  or work on your pre-hab, because it will translate to a lot more fun running and racing with friends when this is all over.
Don’t be afraid to get in some solo miles in the fresh air
  • Solo miles for the soul. Running requires a lot of work when other people aren’t watching or cheering you on. You are your own cheerleader. There isn’t a medal at the finish line of your daily workouts, and yet you do them. Even when you know it will be hard or painful; even when you know you didn’t hydrate enough or probably needed to stretch more, or shouldn’t have had that extra beer last night, you still get out there. And, you do it even when you don’t have a friend or a team to run with. Runners run solo miles. You may do it because you need to, because you feel cooped up, or because it’s a stress release. Whatever the reason, you get out there on the days when there are no fans to cheer you on or a coach to keep your time. Running during COVID-19 is no different. You are, as Des Linden would say, not necessarily training for a race, but training for “Life, motherf*cker.” What matters most is that you do get out there, and that you know how to get out there, because you already have. You know how to rely on yourself. So, go on and pound that pavement. Take advantage of the fact that you know exactly where to run such that you will always be six feet away from any person you might see. Running solo miles is not only good for you, but it is also good for the world right now. #socialdistancing
  • Our sport is your sport’s punishment. A classic slogan in running, but also very true. You may be feeling stifled because of the shelter-in-place order, but don’t forget, you are a runner. Unlike your friends who can’t go to the gym and are learning to run for the first time, you can keep doing what you love.  Running is a part of you, and taking it away would be punishment.  When all other activities have been limited by COVID-19, relish in the fact that you CAN still step outside your front door, wear your new kicks (or the ones that have been around the block too many times), and enjoy the fact that you can still get your miles in. And, every mile is a mile still worth putting in because it means a mile outside, stretching your legs, and sometimes even more importantly, stretching your mind.  Finding gratitude in the hardest of times can help get you through them. So, be grateful that you can still get out on your favorite runs, and that you have years of accumulated knowledge of secret trails, backways, and side streets. Hold on tight to that joy that running brings you because it is going to carry you through this difficult time.

Yeah, some things have changed in the last few weeks, and thing are probably going to keep on changing in the weeks to come. There are a lot of unknowns. But one thing is for sure, running is there. It’s been there for you, and it will continue to be there for you. All you have to do is let it.

Post written by Emma Krasovich with contributions from Julia Sizek.