Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Running in the time of COVID


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Stay off the road and no one gets hurt

These days, every conversation has something to do with COVID19, either directly (Do you have it? Do you think you have it?) or indirectly ("We'd be in a completely different situation with competent leadership" or "Let's light a fire on the neighbor's lawn then sneak in through the back door and steal their toilet paper."). The toll of Coronavirus is dominating the news channels and this is very unfair to me because I prefer more uplifting content.

(Non-runners: please skip to the next paragraph) Since I stopped commuting almost a year ago, my weekly running has increased to almost 20 miles and my standing goal is 75 miles a month. So far I've met or exceeded that in 2020. My average run is still about 3.1 miles, so this week I've increased that by an average of 10% per run. I'm looking to do more 4+ mile runs in spring and possibly add another off day (I only have one rest day a week now) while maintaining my weekly target.

While I've had time to run over the past year, I found it frustrating to navigate my neighborhood due to waves of school buses, sanitation trucks and middle school parents flying down the road to drop off their kids. With Coronavirus, school traffic has vanished. There's still Fedex and UPS trucks and I'm starting to see landscapers, but the roads are often clear of vehicles when I go out.

It's not all good news though. Nice weather and stay at home orders have turned my neighborhood into a park. Unless it's raining or especially chilly, I see people everywhere, walking in small groups or alone, some with dogs, some on bikes and some running like me. I deeply resent this. I have great respect for Governor Cuomo and he says to stay in your home. Yet these people are violating the social contract and turning the streets into a Petri dish. The things I want to say as I run by them.

Since the governor hasn't given me special powers to arrest my neighbors who violate his orders, I decided to take things into my own hands. This morning, due to the new recommendation from the CDC to wear a mask in public, I decided I needed one for this morning's run. I have a mask that I use when I do home improvement projects but I don't think it's COVID19 approved. Instead, I went with one of the buffs that KWL's sister sewed for me and my family. I usually wear it in winter to keep my face from freezing on cold windy days, but it seemed light enough for 45° weather.

I took off on my run with the mask placed over my nose and mouth and headed south. That was fine for about five minutes but then I started feeling claustrophobic. My breathing began to feel restricted and the cloth felt damp. I reached an area that had no signs of my law breaking neighbors so I pulled down the mask and immediately felt better. I decided that I'd run with the mask off my face except in cases when I encountered other people. I was able to endure having it up for the short time it took to get past these selfish, non-mask-wearing interlopers. I ended up running about 3.25 and no one got hurt.

Professor Mike (L), SIOR (R)

Some of my Runsketeer buddies (shown above modeling their COVIDwear) responded as expected when I showed a picture with my running mask (see top pic). TPP said she was having trouble breathing just thinking about running with a mask. Professor Mike said he'd wear his (homemade) mask walking but not running. And SIOR, always supportive, asked me if I was on an Everest Base Camp trek and then said her nurse friend told her running with a mask will make you hyperventilate and make you end up in the ER. Well the jokes on her because I hyperventilated just fine without medical help. However, I will give SIOR credit for inspiring the title of this post.

Should I wear the mask during tomorrow's run? Probably, but I'll only invoke it during those moments when I'm forced to share my road with someone violating house arrest stay at home guidance. I've been discouraged in the past from yelling at neighbors for walking or running on the wrong side of the road so I'll hold back (for now) from berating them for not wearing masks. I mean really, why are these people out there?

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