It’s an unprecedented time for all of us.
There’s little familiarity in our daily lives with much of the workforce, excluding the heroic efforts from essential services, medicine, and delivery, operating from home. Businesses are closed, travel halted, offices are empty, highways and streets are ghost towns. Don’t tell that to runners though, who appear to be out in greater abundance (although not in groups) than ever.
The world’s most accessible sport appears to be as popular as ever when it comes to running as an exercise, including what appears to be a new wave of runners.
It makes sense.
Gyms are closed, and fitness classes are cancelled. Not everyone has a treadmill, stationary bike (or subscription service like Peloton or Zwift), or even free weights in their home. If you don’t have access to equipment, or the mental fortitude to consistently do home workouts with YouTube as your fitness partner, running outdoors is awfully alluring. (There are ways to get creative in your running too, if you find simply going for a run too boring.)
Few other activities have the same low-barrier entry like running: free, outdoors, solo, and as challenging as you make it. In ways, running is a medicine, allowing us to clear our head, stay active, and get fresh air without needing any sort of membership. In times of uncertainty, our running habit can help keep us grounded.
On the one hand, small businesses in the industry face tough times because of COVID-19 including those who operate road races. Currently, races in Canada as late as May have been cancelled, with many affected postponed until at least the fall. Globally, Boston, London, and Paris have all cancelled their marathons, pushing them to September or October.
But, the running industry is adapting quickly, offering virtual races to keep you at least partially motivated as spring plans are disrupted. A break from racing can also allow us to fall in love with the purity of running with no added pressure to hit certain paces or stick to a rigorous training plan.
On the other hand, there appears to be many first-time runners out exercising. At least in Toronto, paved paths, neighbourhood sidewalks, and trails remain busy with runners. Some with running-specific attire, others with sweatpants, gym shoes, and the like. This trend seems to be the case outside of Canada’s largest and most bustling city too.
Just yesterday, Olympian Jessica O’Connell tweeted, “Yesterday I saw more (appropriately distanced) runners on Calgary’s pathways than I EVER have before. Running is kinda fun, right??”
Could this be running’s next big boom? Likely in the short-term, and a possibility in the long-term.
If you maintain social distancing (even if you don’t show any symptoms), then continue to run (unless information changes), or consider trying running for the first time. That is, if you don’t feel ill or show any COVID-19 symptoms; if you do, you should follow health officials’ advice and stay home. You can read more about safe practices while running here.
“If you’re going out and you’re hiking or biking or running and you’re not within, say, six feet or 10 feet of another person, I would consider that a healthy, safe practice,” a Yale epidemiologist told NPR.
Yes, you can run with sophisticated tech like GPS watches, heart rate monitors, AirPods, your smartphone, and the latest and greatest shoes. But the beauty of running is that anyone can be a runner. All you really need are shoes.
Non-run-specialty business seem to be catching on. For example, Altitude Sports sent out an email on March 21, entitled “go for a run” which was full of running gear and attire sales, smartly recommending that if you’re running, avoid touching objects unnecessarily, and your face.
Generally, running is a great metaphor for life, especially during these challenging times. Runners are no stranger to challenges and pushing when the going gets tough. So keep on running. Canadian runner Rob Watson summed up that sentiment best on Twitter, sharing the following:
“One of the greatest things running has taught me is how to deal with disappointment. It is ok to be upset, it is ok to be frustrated, but it is not ok to give up. Take your time to work through your emotions and when you come out the other side you will be better for it.”