The weather’s getting better and every day new restrictions are being lifted and a chorus of leading voices are joining together and encouraging people to get outside. It’s important for both our mental and physical health, and, for parents, it seems essential to give the little ones room to run, and scream, and play. We can’t bend the curve if we’re under lockdown.
By no means do I mean to minimize the impact of COVID-19. I have friends who’ve lost loved ones and their grief, which can’t be properly expressed and has included insufficient goodbyes, only ramps up the pain. Make no mistake: the novel coronavirus has worse effects than civilians looking at runners side-eyed or even, heaven forbid, cussing us out.
I’ve worked out a new approach at handling unhappy walkers or cyclists I encounter on my runs. It’s been a while in the making, and I think the generosity of spirit I show other people benefits me more than them. It wasn’t always like this. I’ve trained for the Boston Marathon and run sprints along Bloor Street where I’ve narrowly missed pedestrians and cut in and out of people, even parents pushing strollers and an indie rock star I love.
I have been definitely in the wrong. Runners can be a little intense.
These days, I’m less intense, and clearly the world has bigger problems than me reaching a half marathon PB. Despite reading the tea leaves, I still have no clue when Canada’s first running race might be. September, October? Doesn’t seem likely. And yet, with golf courses and car washes, the NHL and Las Vegas making overtures toward raising the curtain, who knows?
The narrative seems to have switched from “stay inside” to “cautiously reopen,” and through it all, I’ve remained running. But not like I used to. Like a racer evaluating the conditions, I’ve adjusted my plan.
I avoid crowded areas. I don’t run with a group. I don’t run out of control. I cede the sidewalk to walkers and I smile and wave and say, “great weather,” and “beautiful morning,” and flash the peace sign as much as I can. Heather Gardner, the founder of Tribe Fitness and a community leader and the runner in our picture, above, says this about her approach to our sport:
Running for me is a personal outlet, but during these wild times I want my neighbours to feel safe and so I choose to wear a mask. I don’t have to and as I run hills it’s tough to breathe. But they feel safer when I run by, and so for my neighbours I wear a mask.
Heather puts herself out to make others feel better and it’s a reflection of her, her generosity of spirit toward her immediate community, which includes people who aren’t trying to bring down their 10K time and couldn’t care less about the next carbon-plated shoe. I don’t wear a mask when I run, but I do, mostly, run without music. I try and stay in the moment of my immediate surroundings. The current conditions are almost the exact opposite of a race setting: instead of the world stopping for us, today, we can be a hindrance to people who, just like us, are desperate for fresh air.
The provincial health minister in BC says the chances of spreading COVID-19 to someone while out on a run is “infinitesimally small.” I wish more people knew that but I understand there’s a global high-level of anxiety. Shit, we feel it too. But I’m starting to feel a little better as all this goes on and when I’m at my best, I’m most empathetic. Conflict is the last thing I want.
These days, when I’m out every day in my sneakers, the only thing I’m spreading is love.