As we all know, with the possible exception of Governor Kemp, the goal with covid-19 social distancing isn’t just to protect ourselves by avoiding infection. The virus can be transmitted by the asymptomatic, so we’re also trying to protect those around us because we don’t know if we’re actively infected.
Another consideration is injury prevention. The last thing I want is to break my ankle or be hit by a car and end up in the ER. Our healthcare workers have enough to do right now without casting my leg because I felt the need to try to hit 6 minute pace on highly technical trails. Beyond treatment, though, being at the ER just increases the odds of infection. I have no doubt the cleaning protocols are stringent and effective, but it could be something simple and uncontrollable like passing a covid-19 patient in the parking lot.
With that in mind, where is the best place to run while social distancing?
Paved Running/Biking Trails
Even with good weather for much of March and April, I’ve averaged less than one run per week outside. Why? It’s pretty simple, really. During the first week of Tulsa shutting down non-essential businesses, I ran on Tulsa’s River Parks Trails (paved), and they were packed with people. It was impossible to maintain 6 feet of spacing, much less the 20-30 feet of spacing that would make me more comfortable. (https://www.wired.com/story/are-running-or-cycling-actually-risks-for-spreading-covid-19/)
After the novelty wore off for many Tulsans, my subsequent attempt at social distancing on the trails confined me to a drainage ditch in a busier section of trail. Although I am comfortable running in the grass, the grass has obstacles you don’t see in normal trail running, like mole tunnels, that can grab a foot and cause an injury. It was an unnecessary risk.
Neighborhood and City Streets
A lot of my runs have taken place in the neighborhoods around my house. Foot and bike traffic has also increased dramatically with people being off of work, but the roads are wide enough and traffic sparse enough that social distancing is not a serious problem.
Unfortunately, running on the roads exposes you to more vehicle traffic. You have to assess the traffic danger on the roads you could use for running and determine if the benefits outweigh the risk.
In Tulsa, Turkey Mountain is the primary location for trail runners to get their fix of dirt, rocks, roots, trees, poison ivy, ticks, spiders, and snakes. It’s our little own slice of paradise right in the middle of the city. It gets extremely busy when the weather is nice, but if you know the trails, social distancing is fairly easy once you leave the parking lot.
The challenge is that Turkey Mountain can injure you in any number of ways.
- You could be bitten by a snake.
- If you pick up the wrong kind of tick, you might end up with a more dangerous illness than covid-19.
- A rock may grab your foot when you aren’t looking and snap your ankle like a twig.
- A root may rise up out of the ground into your toe sending you flailing over the side of a (small-ish) cliff.
- The urushiol oil might jump out of the poison ivy lining the trail and right into your eye where not even Zanfel can save you from seeking the help of a (very likely fearful) medical provider.
You get the idea.
If you have nice, smooth, wide trails, maybe those trails are the best place for you to run.
But if you have highly technical trails or trails with their fair share of (albeit rare) dangers like Turkey Mountain, you might want to look at other options.
If you have a treadmill at home, obviously it eliminates any potential covid-19 infection issues that you weren’t already facing from that one person you live with. You know the one.
For safety, treadmills don’t have the best track record (oh dear), but compared to all of the other options available to you, the risk is minimal. The key is to make sure you wear your cut-off key, position the treadmill far enough out from any obstacles that you won’t impact anything if you’re thrown, and if STUPID BH FITNESS DESIGNED IT TO TURN ITSELF OFF AT 99 MINUTES AND 59 SECONDS, SET A TIMER SO YOU DON’T DO IT THREE TIMES IN YOUR LIFE.
Sorry about that…where was I? Oh yeah….
You should be able to run on the dreadmill in a way that the worst injury you face is death by boredom.
If you do get bored of watching tv or watching paint dry, consider hopping into Zwift Running. There are a variety of training groups and races you can join to keep things interesting. It’s free, and with all of the social distancing, seeing other runners is no longer like finding a unicorn.