A backlash against runners is building and it’s essential we all practice common courtesy and advanced precaution or else, like we’ve seen in France, Italy and Spain, our right to run outdoors will be taken away. We bother civilians when we close their roads and they laugh at us in our tight florescent clothing. These eight things, practiced by each of us, will help us maintain something that, at least for me, is very central in keeping me sane. “We’re all in this together,” everyone keeps saying: so let’s us runners protect this, or else we’re going to be cooped up—without end—inside. (Plus, no one wants beans thrown at them, right?)
8. No running in groups. And this is serious. And people are watching. Three people from my run club were out together and someone called the store to complain. You have to do this alone right now, or with one other person—at a distance. Big groups of runners will be ticketed, or worse: They’ll ruin things for everyone else.
7. Stay away from walkers. I’m guilty of this all the time, and I’m training myself to get better. It’s not cool to bare down on a walker and narrowly miss hitting them, just to avoid breaking stride. As bikes don’t belong on the sidewalks, unfortunately, right now, assume the same goes for runners.
6. Don’t spit. Right now, spit is assumed to be lethal. In the best circumstances, it’s gross (although certainly understandable at a race, or even a hard workout). But these are the sort of things that civilians are looking for, and if we’re pegged as out-of-control spitters, we will be vilified and even, perhaps, shut down.
5. When running a virtual race, don’t run the race course. It would be wicked, of course, to race Around the Bay on the actual legendary hills, but we can’t do it because it would invite a crowd. If you must, try it before 6 a.m. or after 10:30 p.m., when you know no one else will be out. We have got to practice social distancing while long distancing (besides, do you really want to run those Around the Bay hills without your time winding up on Sportstats?)
4. Take it slow. The last thing we want is runners getting injured, winding up in the hospital, and adding a drain on the system. If you’ve never done speed work or 20 kilometres at once, don’t do it now. Get some air. Get some exercise. But you don’t have to go crazy. Pace yourself. COVID-19 is a marathon. And we know from marathons, right?
3. Forget the high five. And don’t share water bottles. And wash your hands when you get home. (But now I just sound like your mother).
2. It’s not more imperative for a runner to wear a mask than anyone else. And this is the controversy we’re all currently embracing. André Picard told me we don’t necessarily need to wear a mask when running. If you want to wear it, wear it. If not—at least according to Canada’s most in the know journalist, a runner and a 25-time marathon finisher—that’s fine.
1. Smile at the people you encounter. What civilians will think of runners is however we behave towards them right now. If we’re courteous, respectful, patient and sane; if we’re generous, watchful, alert and calm; if we’re approachable, solo, composed and self-contained, then we’ll be able to run outside, no matter how long this lasts. And we won’t have a country of non-runners who call us joggers thinking we’re jerks.
Pictured is Malindi Elmore, fastest Canadian female marathon runner of all-time. Shot by Cassandra Heinzman at Waterfront Park in Kelowna, BC (a place where Malindi can still run … for now)