async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: What Runners Need to Do to Stay Safe During The Pandemic

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Runners Need to Do to Stay Safe During The Pandemic

Disclaimer: I am a nurse practitioner but that does not mean I am an expert on COVID-19. For the latest up-to-date information, please go to the CDC website. I will be updating this post as things evolve. As of 4/15, I have updated this article to reflect current recommendations.

This week, I feel like I'm moving forward from feeling shell-shocked about the pandemic to adjusting to our new normal. It doesn't mean I'm feeling less anxious--there still is just so much uncertainty around this disease. Here in the Chicago area, the cases of COVID-19 are supposed to peak sometime this week. There is good news and that is we are seeing fewer cases than was predicted. That is because most of us in the Midwest have been following social distancing guidelines for a few weeks.

Does that mean we should let down our guard? Will life go back to normal? I don't think so. The virus is still going to be around for a long time. The downside of social distancing is that many of us haven't been exposed to the virus and will still be vulnerable. Until a vaccine is approved, we're still going to have to take precautions.

Runners can still run. Running benefits our health, physically and mentally. Most importantly, running and other physical activities boost our immune system. That doesn't mean we can be careless.  There are quite a few things runners can do to lower their chances of contracting the virus.



Last week, I started running with a buff that I could pull up around my face when I encountered other people. I run early in the morning when there are very few people on the trails and the paths. So I felt comfortable running without the buff around my face for the majority of my runs, pulling it up as I approached other people and keeping it there for a few minutes after I passed. It's really hard to breathe with that thing! Unfortunately, very few of the people I passed were wearing masks or face coverings.


Keep in mind that the cloth face masks are to prevent you from accidently spreading the infection to others. Even if you're not infected, just do it! If everyone covers their faces, we'll all be protecting each other and how great is that?

If you're not on board about wearing face covering while running, there was a controversial position paper released this week about runners, walkers, and cyclists and the spread of running droplets to the people behind you. According to the paper, the spray of drops from a moving person is much further than 6 feet--the authors recommend for runners they run diagonally or 13-16 feet behind the front runner. For cyclists, its 30-60 feet! While this was not a formal study and there has been a lot of criticism surrounding the science, the information provides enough reason to convince me continue to practice social distancing. I am including it here as food for thought.

And you never thought you'd need physics!
With such a large amount of space required to prevent accidental transmission, the best, safest recommendation for runners would be to run on the treadmill. In Paris, they've actually banned outside exercise between 10am and 7pm.

If you want to run outside, then avoid crowded places. I know this sounds like common sense, but people aren't doing that. This is why parks and fitness paths are being closed. Do what I do and get up early, before everyone else is thinking what a great day it would be to go for a run or a walk. Or run in the road to avoid close contact with other people.


Run alone. Now is the time to find your inner runner, to solve the worlds' problems, and to get in your head. Don't like what you find there? I made a playlist of songs perfectly curated for the pandemic. If you don't like music, listen to a podcast.

Start your run from your home. That means don't get in the car to drive to the trails. If you're running in your neighborhood, avoid crowded sidewalks and run to the side of the road.

If you see other runners, greet them with the nod or a wave. Someone gave me the thumbs up. I like the peace sign too. Your face should be covered and you can smile if you want, but the nod has always been the unofficial runner's high five.


Although the portapotties on my paths are locked, I'm going to state the obvious here: don't use the portapotties! There's a pretty big risk of contracting the virus by touching contaminated objects. You won't be able to wash your hands and hand sanitizer, while often available at a portapotty, might not be the right strength to kill the coronavirus. Clench, dash into the woods, do what you must!

If you need to cough, hack up a loogie, spit, or blow snot rockets, make sure no one is behind you and pull off to the side of the trail. This is something you should be doing anyways. Eww.

Don't use your hands to wipe away the sweat from your face. Wrap a buff around your wrist or use one of these.

Did Ben Franklin really say this?
Carry your own hydration. Don't drink out of the water fountains.

Wash your hands when you get home. Take off your shoes at the door.

This is a scary time for all of us. But if take precautions, we can flatten the curve and decrease our chances of contracting the virus. Keep on running, but stay safe!



Runners can take precautions to stay safe during the pandemic. /via @oldrunningmom #running #runchat #covid19 #socialdistancing

What are you doing to stay safe from infection when running? Have you been running alone? Are you covering your face? Where are you running?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenRachel, Sandra, and Lisa.

 




52 comments :

  1. Excellent points, thank you. I should start taking a buff with me. I sense that sometimes people are uncomfortable when runners pass them (we had an article in the newspaper about runners spraying droplets) and I think a buff would a) be safer and b)make people more comfortable.

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    1. I have my buff just for the people who don't pay attention to social distancing. I don't wear it full time. It's too hard to breathe through!

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  2. I haven't been covering my face. I do run in my neighborhood, but even that can be more crowded than I like. It's still chilly here in the mornings, though, so I often do run with a buff.

    Thanks for all the tips, Wendy -- they're great!

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    1. I hope they were helpful! I think we are going to need these tips for quite some time ahead, at least until there is a vaccine for this thing.

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  3. Really great tips. I haven't thought to wear a buff on my wrist for wiping sweat. I think the city may have closed the water fountains, so that's a good thing. Having a baby, it makes it a lot harder to go for a run in the early hours, so I have to be more strategic about where I go for a couple of miles.

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    1. That's the tricky part--avoiding the crowds. Even going early doesn't guarantee that other people aren't going out.

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  4. I've been running alone (because we have to), early. Much safer and better while still boosting my immune system. Good advice here.

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  5. These are such great tips Wendy - thanks for sharing!

    I started running with a Buff 2 weeks ago. When I'm out running, I don't see any runners with a buff or mask, but all the people that are out walking or walking their dogs all have a face covering. It's weird that the runners here don't see to be wearing them. I saw too many people out during my run on Saturday morning so I'll be leaving an hour earlier this weekend. For the most part my runs are on the treadmill during the week, but I do like to get outside and run on the weekends.

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    1. I definitely got out too late last Saturday--normally 8 am isn't 'late' but so many others had the same idea!

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  6. I wore a buff yesterday because it was windy and cold, but felt better knowing I could pull it up if I crossed paths with someone. Thanks for the visual on the germs when someone is ahead of you; my husband and I were discussing the same thing after a runner cut in front of us (from across the street) - we both held our breaths, irritated with this person (college age student, not judging but JUDGING, sigh). Wish we had fabric face masks but not enough to pull out my sewing machine and try to muddle my way through making one.

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    1. Even fabric face masks really aren't going to protect the wearer. They really only protect others from you. That's why everyone needs to wear them.

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  7. There just aren't a lot of people out and about when I run, so I feel very fortunate in that. The only place that I struggle is the trail where I do my speed work, that can get a bit congested and seems to attract the "social distancing is for other people" mindset.

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    1. Ha! That is exactly what people that I see seem to be thinking! LOL

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  8. I'm going to carry a buff as Florida is supposed to vote to require masks in public places. But I can't wear it during a run. It's so humid here I can barely breathe as it is. I'm worried if I wear one while running I'll pass out from getting overheated. It's so easy to do here.

    That study that was posted is not a scientific study FYI. No argument against practicing extra precautions but it was debunked about a week after major news outlets started sharing it.

    I do make sure to avoid others and give them a wide berth if I see them while running. And I avoid popular areas. Haven't seen that many people in the neighborhoods, but if I do I go on the opposite side of the street.

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    1. I referred to it as a paper, not a study. It wasn't debunked either. Just clarification was made...

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  9. When all this first started, I realized how incredibly lucky I am that (a) I'm a runner so can still get my fix, (b) I run alone always so I'm not giving up something meaningful by continuing to be that Lone Ranger, and (c) I already hit the road by 5AM so no need to disrupt my running schedule (and I promise you, I see *maybe* one other person at that time of day and never on the same side of the street). Truly lucky!

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    1. Oh for sure, going that early you don't see anyone at all! But I just can't....

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  10. I have several routes in my neighborhood worked out where it's quite easy for me to keep a very safe distance from others. I always run in the street (facing traffic, of course) and avoid the local parks and trails unless it's REALLY early in the day.

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    1. In my neighborhood, so many people are out that I still have to go early to avoid seeing anyone!

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  11. Thank you for sharing these tips! I always wear a buff on spring/winter/fall runs and have started covering my face if I encounter people. As counterintuitive as it sounds, I also try to pick less pleasant days for stroller runs - fewer people are out. It makes me upset when I see people in groups of clearly not household members.
    I had a bit of issue with that white paper because computational fluid dynamics simulations are particularly difficult to calculate with precision (at least according to all the engineers I know, including the one I'm married to). I do think there is an onus on researchers to not spread anxiety with imprecise information, but then again, maybe some people do need to be scared into it at this point.

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    1. Exactly! I knew it wasn't a peer reviewed study but it was interesting information and at this point, we need people to be more cautious.

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  12. These are all really good tips, and some things that I didnt think about. I have been running so early or just running on the treadmill. I used to like going out on Sundays around 9 but its just too hard to stay away from people. My neighborhood ends up busy with people walking, riding bikes and playing so its easier to run when no one else is out there.

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    1. My neighborhood has been really busy during the day as well. Getting up and out the door early isn't even a guarantee that I'll have it to myself!

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  13. Botswana and South Africa have completely banned running outdoors. The struggle is real. But I'm so grateful for my treadmill which I know many people don't have as they've always relied on the ones at the gym if they really needed one.

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    1. It's amazing how proactive they are being! Selfishly, I"m glad I can still run outdoors. I hope they don't take it away.

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  14. It is very hard to run w those buffs. I used them in the winter time. I have abandoned the trails and I am sticking to the small neighborhood streets by the house. I rarely see anyone else and when I do, I cross over the other side of the street. Dog walkers seem to appreciate this and give a nod. It seems weird but as you say, if we all do it, hopefully this will end sooner. I also saw that article you mentioned above. Apparently it had no scientific backing to it and has been kind of dismissed as highly unlikely. Of course, that was after they freaked out everyone! So not wearing a mask for running right now but for any other time I go out yes. Thanks for linking up! Have a great day :)

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  15. Great points here! I think I've gone out once or twice with a buff but don't think I need it because there is hardly anyone out there. The times I have seen someone maybe once or twice, I've gone to the street since they made no indication of moving. Well, I guess I should be the one moving, right? I always leave my running or work shoes outside my door and change into my Oofos before coming inside. Been doing that for years so now it is a habit. Thank you for linking up with us!

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    1. We have always had a rule at our house about not walking around in shoes. Amazingly, my mom always gets upset when we ask her to take her shoes off...

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  16. Check out this RW article on that paper on runners and droplets. It doesn't seem like sound science. https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a32099136/coronavirus-viral-simulation/

    I have been running with a buff and am actually used to it now. I tried a balaclava. That was terrible!

    Christy in NYC

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  17. Oh! I forgot this article from The New York Times about exercising with a face mask and the data on outdoor transmission risk. I found it really helpful. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/10/well/move/coronavirus-exercise-outdoors-mask-running-cycling.html

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    1. thank you, I read that one also! Looks like we do our share of reading!

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  18. Thanks for the safety tips, Wendy. I like the idea of wearing a buff and pulling it up when you pass people. It IS hard to breathe with a buff on, especially as it is getting warmer, but I can pull it up over my mouth and nose for a few seconds. I pass few, if any, people on my run. I also like the idea of twisting a buff around your wrist to wipe sweat away.

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  19. As much as I curse my small town setting, there are perks. Barb and I are still running together on occasion, but we're always well-distanced (usually half of the street between us, and we're parallel so as not to be on the receiving end of either's "droplets"). Of course, we don't see any other people at 5:00 a.m. and seldom even have traffic to deal with.

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    1. I wouldn't imagine that you see much of anyone at the time of the morning!

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  20. Interestingly enough, our local parks have closed the bathrooms (which are already pit toilets) and instead set out porto-pots. For me, that's WAY less sanitary than the pit toilets. I never use either anyway but ick.

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  21. Wearing a mask when outside (in public) is required now in my county. I wear my buff around my neck like you do and pull it up when I see people. I actually told a couple of people today they should be wearing a mask. To protect me. Very unlike me but I get annoyed at a certain point. If I can do it, they can too. All the water fountains are turned off and covered (which is a pain when I bring my dog) but I've always brought my own water anyway. The bathrooms are closed. The parking lot at the trails is closed but it is open to people who can walk or run there. They have signs on the street prohibiting parking, and they are checking addresses regularly. California has been doing a good job of flattening our curve but there are still people who just don't listen. Or who still think this is some kind of conspiracy. Either to take down you know who or a government plan to have us all behave like lambs so they can take over.

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    1. I've been reading that people are protesting the stay at home rules in a few states. I give up. Thank you to you know who for seeding the doubt.

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  22. I'm not wearing a mask out in public yet (and I don't go to the stores). I very rarely see anyone while I am out and about, so I don't feel like I need to at this point. If that changes, I have a buff an da mask and will be able to adjust.

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    1. I will if I have to go to the stores. Otherwise, I'm ready and prepared with my buff.

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  23. Most of my running is on the treadmill so I am extra safe ha! I hate running with a buff but it's definitely a necessary thing with everything that is going on. Thanks for these great safety tips!

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    1. I think once things start opening back up, we will be wearing masks.

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  24. Hey Wendy! I've been running in my neighborhood, without a mask, pretty early (as close to 7AM as possible), three times a week. Usually there is only one other person out running, and she and I nod as we pass on opposite sides of the street. I have an Under Armor shirt/jacket that has a partial face covering that is really used to block the cold. I have worn that several times, but when I have tried to run with a mask, it has been too difficult (hence, the running early before anyone else is up and about). I like the idea of wearing my buff and just pulling it up when needed. I think I will start doing that now, as I do wear a mask when I must go out to the store. Thanks for the tip!

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    1. It is really hard to breathe with a buff. In the bitter cold of winter, I do run with a mask but it is vented, which helps. I don't think that would work for this!

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  25. I've been running with a very lightweight baclava that I intermittently pull up. looking for some very lightweight buffs on Amazon now.
    Sadly, over the past few weeks have seen less greeting and more hairy-eye from others, like the suspicion and stress level has gone up all over. I hate covering while running, but hope it sends a message of courtesy as well as protection to others...?

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    1. It seems like I am the only one covering my face when I'm running, so I've been giving the hairy eyeball to people. Last Sunday when I walked Cocoa, there were 2 guys hogging the sidewalk and they wouldn't move over, so I had to go into the grass. Clearly some people don't get it.

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  26. Rachael
    Thank you for the tips I will definitely use a buff on my next run. I have been running solo for a while.
    Our LOCKDOWN guidelines allow us to run or jog. They stipulate that you can leave the house to exercise in groups of not more than 3 people. Solo running is best for me during the week. In my neighborhood usually I have the whole street to myself but I do pass other people occasionally. I totally agree that I should protect others by use of a buff or mask.
    However, during the weekend my 2 friends and I go for a long road run about 13km out of town. We practice social distancing and although the route is well known we have the road to ourselves early morning eg. 06h30
    Running is indeed great for mental,physical and spiritual health. I also have a playlist for my long runs.
    Thank you once again for sharing

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    1. Thank you for reading! I'm grateful that most of us are able to continue to exercise outside. The fresh air and natural light does wonders for the mood, doesn't it?

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