My running partner recommended we bring our masks on our Wednesday night run and it wasn’t something I was going to do. We’ve reported in the past about the unlikelihood of spreading COVID-19 while outdoors running with a sole partner and I didn’t think—even as the cases get worse across the country—that masks were necessary. We run, generally, away from people and I don’t like how a mask feels while running. However, I don’t want to be selfish and if wearing a mask means the difference between running outside or staying home, I’d wear a mask in a second. We asked Dr. John Hooper, an ICU physician at the Ottawa Hospital, also the medical director of the Ottawa Marathon, if we need to wear a mask on a run.
“If you can spread out on your run, I don’t think you need to wear a mask,” says Dr. Hooper, mentioning that social distancing is the key for healthy outdoor exercise. Dr. Hooper says that where he lives, in the Kanata section of Ottawa, he has space devoid of crowds and so a mask wouldn’t be necessary; although, he might wear one anyway because he doesn’t want to send the wrong signal. Dr. Hooper describes his situation at Ottawa Hospital as bleak and says that the third wave of COVID-19 is upon us and everyone has to do their best to pitch in. We shouldn’t run with groups or expect organized races to return. But he still doesn’t think that if you have space to run away from people that a mask is necessary.
“If you’re running and nobody’s near you, I don’t think you have to wear a mask,” says Dr. Hooper. “The biggest issue with COVID is social distancing, but going out and exercising is more than appropriate, it’s necessary.”
We recently put the question to our readers on Facebook and received more than 150 responses to the question of whether or not runners were ready to exercise in their masks. Readers were mixed 50/50 in their responses.
“I already run in my mask,” wrote one reader. “I mostly run in the early morning or at night and down side streets alone, so I simply pull it down below my nose, but have it at the ready for when I approach an intersection, or if there are people approaching (or I’m approaching them). I pull the mask up out of respect. As a runner, I find it incredibly selfish when other runners come up behind me and blow by huffing and puffing leaving me in their spit jet stream! Imagine how non-runners feel??”
Another reader wrote: “If this is what is asked of me to protect my family and my community then I’m all in!”
“I wear one while running outdoors,” another reader wrote. “I wore one during labour last August, if I can handle that I can run in one no problem!”
Still, a big population of our audience didn’t think the masks were necessary on a run.
“If people are that afraid of catching COVID outdoors while they’re wearing their own mask because someone passing by them on a run in a matter of 1 second might be contagious, they are more than welcome to stay safe at home,” one reader wrote.
“I 100% support masks, but I don’t wear a mask for running, which I do alone and give people space,” wrote another reader. “I’m curious what type of masks those running with them use. I find I struggle for air when walking up a steep hill with my around town mask on, so I think running would be a struggle. I’m curious how it is.”
Another comment which I think matches my own reasoning is this one: “If it was mandatory then I would have to run with a mask, but until then I will not.” Dr. Hooper, appro
“I’m all for masks and if you’re walking around and other people are around I’d put you in my idiot category or selfish category if you’re not wearing a mask,” says Dr. Hooper. “Masks aren’t the perfect solution, but they help. If you’re out there by yourself and no one is near you, you can pull your mask down. It could be beneficial to feel like a human being out there getting fresh air.”