In recent weeks, as restrictions on travel, social distancing and borders open, it has somehow felt that living in the times of a Pandemic is a little like toeing the line at Big’s Backyard Ultra. Instead of running loops around a yard, we wake up each morning for another loop of 24-hours not knowing where the finish line is and when it will come.
Covid-19 for us runners is a very unique ultramarathon.
In all honesty, I do believe that ultra-runners are somehow better adapted for the challenges that a Pandemic brings. Mental fortitude and resilience have come to the fore and when restrictions were really tough, runners rallied with running at home. Virtual suddenly became the next big thing. It filled a gap and brought people together from all over the world in a mutual coming together to enjoy a love of sport and community.
The impact on work has been huge for all and the consequences of this will continue on for months and years on personal levels and business. It’s a sad time.
But early on, I accepted that 2020 would be a wipe out. Being somewhat of an OCD character, this took a little time to adjust too. My year of work was planned out. The schedule was timetabled and suddenly, it was gone… What was full, soon became empty. I have felt my moods swing with positivity and at times I have wanted to put my head in my hands.
But quarantine and social distancing, in all honesty, was no big deal for me. I actually feel that I have social distanced most of my life and sport has only reaffirmed that.
Yes, I enjoy the company of friends. Yes, I enjoy a trail run with company. Yes, I enjoy a beer and a meal with others and yes, I have missed my family.
The summit os Slogen, Norway in July with Abelone.
But I am good alone, in isolation and finding my own footing. Time on the trail has always allowed me to switch off, think, contemplate, plan, work out problems, come up with solutions and form ideas.
When running with others, I am often asked, ‘Are you ok? You are quiet!’
‘I am perfect; I am just out of the office and soaking up the time,’ often my reply.
In recent months, or should I say for the whole of 2020 so far, I have immersed myself in a new life in Norway with my girlfriend, Abelone.
Little did we both know in February after being at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica that we would spend 24/7 for the coming months together. I laughed early on saying, ‘Well, this is one way to find out if this relationship will work!’
It has been the best thing to come from a Pandemic.
FREEDOM is something I always had being self-employed but the freedom to do ‘my’ adventures was dictated by travel and a hectic work schedule. Freedom often only really came in the middle of the year when I would block off some time in Summer and then December, which I would treat as sacred and my opportunity to explore and adventure.
2020 has seen my diary flipped with little or no work and constant adventure.
Here is Scandinavia, we were very lucky with Covid (exception coming from Sweden who handled things differently,) particularly in Norway, cases were low, death rates were low and although social distancing was required, our freedom was not impacted. In all honesty, many locals confirmed that the trails in Norway had never had so many people on them in March, April and May. No doubt helped by some amazing weather.
Scandinavians love the outdoor life and Covid only emphasized the need for space, outdoor adventure and exercise. A wonderful mental and physical prescription that all doctors should prescribe.
I am used to travelling when I like, eating in restaurants, meeting friends when I want, and I am used to being surrounded by people at a race. Some would say I was free.
But was I?
August is here and I am now looking back at social interactions in 2020 since March and lockdown.
I have seen no family.
I have seen 4 friends in Norway.
I have run on the trails with Abelone and one other person who we had to social distance with.
I have interacted with 3 members of Abelone’s family.
And that is it…
So, my freedom was and is still certainly impacted upon and I relish the opportunity to hug a friend, travel back to the UK and see my Mum and my son and equally embrace them like never before.
But no work has allowed me a freedom of time, not financial, to do what I want.
Adventure is on the doorstep for us all.
Now, here in Norway we have a pretty big doorstep. At a third larger than the UK, getting around Norway can take a while but with just 5.5 million people in contrast to 66 million, finding space and social distancing is no problem. Hardanger, Stranda, Romsdal, and Jotunheimen have all been on our list and even 1,2 or 3-day adventures from home have become regular.
Just yesterday, we ran 15km from home, wild camped in an isolated location and then ran 15km home.
I have always been a lone wolf with adventure. At best, I have shared an experience with just one or two others. I like my pace, my schedule and my itinerary and am somewhat inflexible, yes stubborn with changes and I do like to plan. I can see Abelone roll her eyes now…!
The escape of outdoor life has always provided me with an energy. I even got that with my work, often hiking out for hours on a trail to sit and wait, alone, for runners to come.
So, what am I saying?
The Pandemic is rubbish, for sure. Is it going away? I hope so, as soon as possible, but as I said at the beginning, currently we are all running loops at Big’s Backyard Ultra and nobody knows how many loops are to go and when the finishing will come.
One thing we do have, albeit at varying levels depending on where one lives in the world, is freedom to explore from home. So, embrace what you have and do not think or focus on what you do not have or what you cannot do.
It’s no surprise that FKT’s have never been more popular.
Many have said, ‘I cannot wait for life to return to normal!’ I agree to a certain extent, normal would be good… But then again, was normal good?
Will life ever be ‘normal’ again, or, are we looking at a new normal?
I don’t have answers.
But I will keep running the loops and enjoy the newfound freedom I have for now.
Have you found freedom in 2020? I would love to know.
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However, it seems to be a general consensus by the experts that a vaccine will not be available till 2021.
We are living in a time of so much insecurity – lives are being lost globally, people are losing work, children are at home and the world is an element of lockdown.
So, talking about racing and running seems a little insignificant and pointless in the context of the above, but I, and I know many of you are asking the question, when will racing return?
Firstly, the race calendar to August has been pretty much wiped out globally. Many races and RD’s accepted the situation, cancelled events and said, ‘we will see you in 2021!’ But, for every race that cancelled, another postponed to a date later in the year in the hope that restrictions would be eased and that the virus would be on the back foot. I get it, nobody wants to cancel an event.
But the postponement scenario has already created an issue with a plethora of races all now scheduled for September, October, November and December. Quite simply, the back end of the season will have more races than runners and we will see participants having to make a choice of which race they toe the line on.
For me, this is the big but, I in all honesty do not see racing returning to ‘normal’ in 2020.
I hate to be pessimistic, but the global situation is so dire that the cessation from lockdown to normal is going to be months, not days or weeks.
Prof Chris Whitty said it was “wholly unrealistic” to expect life would suddenly return to normal soon. He said “in the long run” the ideal way out would be via a “highly effective vaccine” or drugs to treat the disease. But he warned that the chance of having those within the next calendar year was “incredibly small”. – Via BBC News
Firstly, we are going to be in a yoyo period with second and third phase infection as lockdowns are eased. This will create additional peaks and troughs. This in turn, may require governments to reapply and ease restrictions so as to prevent overload on health systems.
It will be a period of controlled herd immunity until a vaccine comes. Needless to say, the old, frail, sick and anyone in care homes will need to be protected.
Suppression measures will slowly be released, firstly with schools returning (this is already happening in Norway and soon Germany,) then retail outlets will open with measures to control how many people can be in a store and controls on social distancing. Restaurants may open with controlled measures such as the client must be seated, only hot food can be consumed, and tables must be spaced accordingly as per government and health specifications.
When one takes into consideration the above, this accounts for May, June and July and of course, in each country, the situation will be monitored. As more people move freely, the virus will spread. If the spread is too great, restrictions may be reimposed to slow the spread down and so on. So, it’s easy to see that planning August, September and beyond is not something one can do with any certainty or guarantee.
Just today, Val d’Aran by UTMB®, has been cancelled and will take place in 2021. Xavier Pocino, director, explained:
“Our priority is the health and safety of the participants as well as the population of the Val d’Aran. Given the current context, it is therefore preferable to postpone the race in order to guarantee the health and logistics of the event. We also wish to respect the dates of other races programmed for after the summer, to avoid a date clash and to allow our athletes to participate in those races, should they go ahead”.
Currently airlines are on a very restricted service, hotels are closed, restaurants are closed, and, in many places, lockdown really does not allow any travel at all. Some are allowed to exercise, from home, for 1-hour.
A picture is building that the transition from lockdown to free movement is more than likely a year away?
If travel is restricted, hotels are closed and restaurants remain unopened, quite simply, racing will be cancelled.
The short-term future of racing will be virtual, and already globally, we are seeing virtual incentives appearing. From simple scenarios of running for a daily specific time, such as 45-minutes. But also, multi-day challenges or even specific distance challenges such as 1000-miles are appearing. Take up has been impressive which only goes to show the desire for competition.
As restrictions ease, races and RD’s will need to be constantly communicating with authorities to ascertain what is and what is not possible. For example, Sweden started with a herd immunity approach in January, avoided lockdown, emphasized social distancing, protected the old and allowed group gatherings of up to 50 people. Whereas, in the UK, for example, in March it was locked down with only essential travel (shopping) and exercise (from home) with other family members allowed.
Nature is the boss.
WHAT MAY RACING LOOK LIKE INITIALLY?
It goes without saying here that maybe ALL races will be cancelled or postponed until the Covid-19 situation is under control or over.
However, there may be a transition phase. Just as children return to school, workers return to offices, runners returning to races may need to adapt.
We all seek isolation and love personal adventure, maybe in the months to come, this will take over from racing?
Initially, global travel will be reduced and no doubt under control or restrictions. So, maybe races will only allow regional athletes. For example, only French residents can run in French races.
Medical certificates may be required that go beyond the standard ECG/ health check with a requirement to include testing for Covid-19.
Race briefings, bib provision and all admin will be done electronically so as to reduce pre-race social interaction.
Covid-19 appears to have a 14-day ‘active’ period, therefore, 14-days from the race start it will be a requirement to have a medical check or even in extreme cases, runners may be required to go into 14-day isolation/ quarantine before a race start. Any symptoms, no race!
No pre-race gatherings.
It can be easy, sort of, to social distance on the trails.
Races may have reduced numbers and they will incorporate an element of social distancing to reduce risk. For example, staggered starts of say 10-runners starting at 10-minute intervals. Seeding could be worked out by asking runners to run a 5km time trial and then provide the time to the RD? Racing would obviously be based on chip time and therefore, the race could be more like a time trial.
Aid stations may be removed and therefore self-sufficiency/ autonomy will be required both from a food and water perspective. This by default would mean races could only be a certain distance in length. One other alternative could be un-manned aid stations and runners would need to provide sealed drop bags which they could access at specific points. If it was a 100-mile race, for example, 4 aid/ drop stations at 20/40/60 and 80-miles. Again, aid/ drop stations would have social distancing in place.
The need for a personal tracking device such as a Spot or Garmin InReach may be required to guarantee security for each participant.
Mandatory equipment would need to cover more eventualities. Maybe *face masks and *gloves would be a requirement? *Medical opinion varies on the effectiveness and use.
Race routes and courses may well be unmarked and therefore the need for a navigation or a navigation device using a provided GPX track could be a requirement.
Volunteer help may be reduced with ongoing implications.
Medical support/ safety could be compromised.
Extreme or dangerous courses would not be allowed to reduce the potential ongoing need for medical help due to accidents.
Finish areas would be isolated with minimal interaction.
A ‘finish and go’ scenario once the race is completed.
Parties and any post-race razzamatazz may be on hold for a while.
Post-race gatherings would be cancelled.
Awards and prizes would be done digitally, and any physical prices would be posted out.
The above are ideas and thought processes that have been bouncing around my head while in lockdown.
I actually wonder, faced with the above, how many would still want to race? Maybe all races will be cancelled until they can be run ‘as normal!’
Of course, I do think much of the above may well be fantasy or fiction, but I can see how some of the above could happen. Especially in regard to electronic communication, pre/post gatherings, social distancing and a reduction or change to how aid stations work.
Good friend, respected race director and runner, John Storkamp of Rock Steady Running (in the USA) kindly provided me with some of his thoughts:
“But I also believe that almost none of us want to get back at any cost, especially if it compromises safety. Our own personal safety or the safety of the communities where our events are held. Once we can return, I for one also fear a diminished race experience with reminders of the virus at every turn, at least initially; i.e. no ritual of packet pickup, no festive pre-race gatherings, no mass starts where we all come together in the collective nervousness and prayer before the start, skeleton crew aid-stations filled with nervous workers exposed to every runner, no post race celebration with the telling of tales of the dragons we slayed out on the course that day. Races have always provided us with an alternate reality, an escape for a day or two, from the stresses of daily life. Any post-Covid races, again at least initially, will invite all of the fear of our current daily existence into what has always been one of our safest and most sacred spaces.”
Certainly, with the races I work on and communicate with, they are learning lessons now but are planning for 2021 races to be run as one would expect.
Solo running, time-trial events and FKT’s may prove popular.
I asked on Twitter for some thoughts, here are the responses:
Sarah Canney – Local participants only? Pre and post race outside with masks?
Andrew Smith – I’m thinking there will be pretty much no racing this year and am just going for some personal challenges.Hopeful next year might look different, but even then there will likely be changes – how much depends on what fundamental changes we will need to make day to day.
Mark Atkinson – Expect a fair few staggered start or time trial approaches with reduced numbers. Possibly smaller but more frequent aid points so if one is too busy you head to the next. I’m going to miss running shoulder to shoulder with a stranger through the night sharing life stories.
Dr Stacey Holloway – Maybe more FKT attempts than races and round attempts? We host a winter race in Jan, but even thinking we won’t be in 2021 and looking for maybe for Nov 2021 event and a Jan 2022 event and having its as some sort of series… not sure just ideas!
Melinda Coen – I’m expecting higher entry fees to help RDs surviveand also lower numbers, wave starts, less buffet aid at ultras and more “packaged foods”.
Via Talk Ultra Facebook page:
Yes, individual starts, unfortunately less a to b-races due to don’t want to gather people on buses. – Henrik
Proof of vaccinations required – Brian
I wonder whether some event organisers will run two or three events on the same day to stagger start times and space people out more. For example, could have a trail run, duathlon, triathlon and aquathlon. Bit of a logistical nightmare in some ways! – Ann
Reduced numbers. Staggered starts, volunteers in face masks and gloves, no more sponge bucket( that one makes me sad).
More crew or drop bags allowed to lessen need for a CP table/buffet. – Shane
Assisting injured runners may be a problem, especially on a trail. – Martin
Races will be cancelled either voluntarily by the organizers or from lack of participation.Some will go away because of financial problems. When trails are open people will do more FKT attempts and solo runs. – Ali
Self supported – no shared food at aid stations – Tim
Less corporate, More self-sufficient, longer distances between aid stations, more map reading or gps guidance less trail marking..all to the good then! – Kevin
April 18th, 2020, amid a worldwide lockdown due to Covid-19, a global run community came together between the hours of 9am to 9pm with one purpose.
Run at home.
Raise funds for the NHS who are fighting Covid-19.
I could literally write and write about the experience. To see young and old, runners and non-runners globally come together to test themselves #athome was truly mind-blowing and I am still coming to terms with the emotion of the day.
From seeing a 2-year old cover 1-mile to a pro-runner covering 131km on a treadmill, there was no experience too small or large.
A community came together, encouraged, supported, applauded and cheered on as donations flooded in.
I set the goal to raise £10,000 for the NHS and as I write, donations are at £12.222.46 and with Gift Aid £14.131.07. I am leaving the donation page open and I am quietly confident with a little rallying, funds will increase.
So, if you are reading this and have not donated, please go HERE.
I personally did the best I could monitoring all that went on for the 12-hours and I ‘tried’ to message everyone, encourage and support. I am sure I failed as at times, it really was difficult to keep up. Especially when I did my own challenge of a 1000m vertical and descent up and down the staircase in our apartment block.
So, if I did miss commenting, accept my apologies. I am going to try and backtrack and go through all the posts and hit a ‘like’ and make a comment.
Needless to say it has been a magical experience and one that I would like to repeat… Maybe when all this nasty Coronavirus is over, we can celebrate on Apr 18 2021 with a reunion…?
FOR NOW, A HUGE THANK YOU FOR COMING TOGETHER.
As one lady said, ‘I have spent 4-weeks alone and isolated. Today, I was alone once again but virtually I made friends around the world. I shared a mutual experience, did some good and felt loved and wanted.’
Families came together, mum ran with dad, dad ran with mum and the kids did their bit. I know from my end, we had a ball creating something fun and different and in the process, many of us had an art lesson with the bibs.
Below is a collated summary of the day. I have tried to capture as much as possible.
Pau Capell, Tofol Castanyer,Kilian Jornet and journalist,Albert Jorquera thought that it would be a good idea to all get together and run virtually, at home, at the same time with the Spanish run community. Ultra-trail runners love to spend long hours running in the mountains, but they wanted to emphasize that during this quarantine and isolation period, the most important thing is to get out of the house as little as possible and help stop the spread of Covid-19.
Listen to KILIAN JORNET
The four, together with Jordi Saragossa and Maria Fainé, decided to create the #YoCorroEnCasa (IrunAtHome) Challenge. With this challenge they wanted to bring a maximum number of people doing sports together in the home; distance did not matter, it could be 100 metres or maybe a marathon! The important aspect was the social side, the coming together as a community to share an experience.
To participate ‘officially’ in this ‘virtual run’ participants made a donation to #YoMeCorono – The team of doctors and researchers who had started pioneering clinical trials to define which drugs will immediately be used to treat the infected patients, prevent ongoing contagion and look for a vaccine against the virus.
It was a huge success with over 7400 participants.
The total raised was an incredible 82.940 Euros.
Every single euro was donated to charity.
This pandemic has deprived us all of so many privileges, running may seem insignificant now, but getting together to run in the mountains or on trails is not possible for most of us. We, as runners though are not willing to give up, we are going to fight Covid-19 together to stop it and fight to continue doing what we are passionate about.
So, come April 18th we want you to join us with the tag, #IRunatHome and in the process we will race funds for the NHS Charities Covid-19 Appeal.
“Our amazing NHS staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to care for COVID-19 patients. And we want them to know the country has also got their back. We are so proud and in awe of NHS staff and volunteers as they work tirelessly to save lives! This means staying away from their homes and families, working day and night, to treat as many people as possible in need of care.”
We have multiple confirmed elite runners who you can virtually run with.
And more joining daily.
Please help us spread the word and help us raise money by #IRunAtHome
We appreciate that depending on where you are located, that it ‘may’ be possible to run outside by respecting social distancing. However, this challenge is all about ‘Staying Home’ and self-isolating and joining other runner’s in a challenge of #IRunAtHome
You must run in your home and/ or garden/ treadmill.
Any distance is acceptable.
Start at any time from 0900 and finish before 2100 hours.
To enter, please DONATE HERE at a specific charity page, all funds go directly to the charity.
Episode 184 of Talk Ultra is a Covid-19 special with Stephen Goldstein Ph.D. who is currently a postdoctoral researcher associated at the University of Utah Department of Human Genetics studying viral evolution, including the evolution and origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Talk Ultra is now on Tunein – just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE You can download the Tunein APP HERE
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Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
The world is under siege from a novel Coronavirus and there is a great deal of uncertainty as our everyday lives are grinding to a halt and our freedoms are being suppressed and controlled for the greater good.
I openly admit I am not in any way an expert: however, I have compiled information and with the cooperation of Stephen Goldstein Ph.D. who is currently a postdoctoral research associated at the University of Utah Department of Human Genetics studying viral evolution, including the evolution and origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 – This article addresses many of the issues that we are all asking and wondering about.
You may well disagree with some of the points made, particularly when I add personal opinion. That is fine, please comment and be respectful.
And if you are a medical professional and see any errors, please point them out and they will be addressed.
A podcast with Stephen Goldstein Ph.D will be recorded and released this week on Talk Ultra. As Stephen says, “Fair warning, there’s still a lot we have to learn, so in some areas I may not be able to speak with much certainty.
It’s a good time to self-isolate, social distance and spend time alone if allowed.
What is Covid-19?
In simple terms, Covid-19 is a variation of the flu but experts know much less about this novel coronavirus. It was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, that has only spread in people since December 2019.
What is the difference to other coronavirus’?
Covid-19 is more infectious than other coronavirus and current stats show that a person who is infected with Covid-19 spreads it to more people than the common flu. The precise case fatality ratio for Covid-19 is unknown because of incomplete testing of possible cases and insufficient information about outbreaks. Infectious disease has something called R0, the current R0 of this virus is between 2 and 3, meaning that an infected person will likely infect 2 to 3 additional people. With Covid-19, most deaths are caused by acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which causes already-damaged lungs to fill with fluid and makes breathing difficult. Unlike flu, there is no vaccine for Covid-19, yet!
Difference between flu and a cold, transmission and symptoms?
A dry cough and fever is similar to common flu, however, Covid-19 more often causes shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Influenza causes aches, fatigue, headache and chills. From what is currently understood about Covid-19, these appear to be less common. With Covid-19, symptoms may be more gradual and take several days to get worse unlike flu symptoms which tend to come on abruptly, getting worse in a day or two. Sneezing have a stuffy or runny nose; the good news is that you probably just have a cold.
COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, which means to become infected, people generally must be within six feet of someone who is contagious and come into contact with these droplets. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Symptoms of COVID-19 appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.
If you show any symptoms, please self-isolate and respect social distancing.
Recommended advice is self-quarantine and social distancing – how does this work?
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, avoid touching surfaces if at all possible. Cover your coughs and sneezes and importantly stay home if you’re feeling ill and self-quarantine for 14-days. Specifically, for Covid-19, actions of universities and workplaces are closing and allowing telecommuting and distance learning make sense. Large public gatherings need to be cancelled or radically altered as we have seen all over the world. By reducing interaction, the virus has reduced capacity to spread. Non-essential travel needs to be cancelled and we are already seeing the impact on all travel systems, particularly airlines.
In many scenarios, individual countries are now imposing restrictions, for example, just today I received an email from the New Zealand Tourist Board:
“The New Zealand Government has announced new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand. These measures include the requirement for every person entering New Zealand to self-isolate for 14-days from the date of departure. This excludes people arriving from most Pacific Islands. The Government will also be stepping up its enforcement of the requirement to self-isolate. These measures came into effect at 01:00 am on Monday 16 March and will be reviewed in 16 days. A temporary ban on cruise ships entering New Zealand territorial waters also came into effect at 11.59pm on 14 March. This ban will be in effect until 30 June, after which time it will be reviewed. Foreign travelers who have been present in, or transited through, Iran or mainland China in the previous 14 days will still be refused entry to New Zealand.”
The contents above are not unusual for countries all over the world, and with each passing day, more restrictions are imposed.
As one friend said in conversation, “This is bigger than all of us. The virus is everybody’s problem! We need to act now, self-isolate, respect social distancing because even though we may feel ok, we are surrounded by people who are not. Our actions affect everyone.”
“At the same time, by implementing population-wide social distancing, the opportunity for onward transmission in all locations was rapidly reduced. Several studies have estimated that these interventions reduced R to below 1…. Overall, our results suggest that population-wide social distancing applied to the population as a whole would have the largest impact…” – Imperial College
What action to take?
Take everyday preventive actions:
Clean your hands often
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.
UK are proposing herd immunity – what is it and is it a good idea?
Herd immunity describes a scenario where so many people become resistant to a disease, either through vaccinations or exposure. Mass immunity could effectively cause the virus to burn out over the course of one or two seasons or buy time until a vaccine is developed and distributed.
“We think this virus is likely to be one that comes year on year … like a seasonal virus,” Sir Patrick said on Saturday. “Communities will become immune to it and that’s going to be an important part of controlling this longer term.”
Britain’s approach has three core elements:
Enact social distancing measures much more slowly than other countries;
Shield at-risk groups like the elderly and sick from contact with the general population;
Let COVID-19 slowly sweep through everybody else.
“Your house is on fire, and the people whom you have trusted with your care are not trying to put it out… “says William Hanage in The Guardian. “The UK government has inexplicably chosen to encourage the flames…”
The UK’s approach here is isolated and creating much debate, the general consensus being that we should slow the outbreak. Covid-19 is capable of shutting down countries, just look around now and you will see the world is on lockdown. South Korea has been applauded for its approach and it would appear has gained some control.
“Because Covid-19 is caused by a novel virus, it is likely that there is no natural immunity to it, unlike the flu.” Says Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director. “In most years, some percentage of the population will be resistant to flu infection and less likely to become severely ill from that year’s flu strains because they previously had a similar strain of the flu or were vaccinated against it.”
In the coming weeks, the UK’s approach will be tested and scrutinized, especially when most experts are talking about flattening the curve.
But guess what, before this article was finished, Boris Johnson in the UK announced on March 16th:
“Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Britons to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres and stop non-essential travel in an effort to reduce the impact of the coronavirus, Mr. Johnson set out the need for “drastic action” to tackle the “fast growth” of the coronavirus as cases rose to 1,543 in the UK.”
What is flattening the curve?
By flattening the epidemic curve, we reduce the chance of a sharp spike in cases that could overwhelm health care facilities. Actions that delay cases of Covid-19 allow better management of health care resources. As witnessed in Italy, surges stretch any health system to a point of breaking and the impact is terrible. Italy have had to introduce Triage at war time levels. Moderate and extensive social distancing works well and as The Washington Post shows (here) a single-person’s behavior can have a huge impact.
In Pandemic situations infection rate depends on the number of people one person can infect and then how long the newly infected people take to be infectious themselves. The virus branches out, ever multiplying and this is how we see spikes in viral activity, 3 becomes 6, 6 becomes 12, 12 becomes 24 and so on. Again, Italy being a prime example of this branching process.
“If cases double every six days, then hospitals, and intensive care units (ICUs) in particular, will be quickly overwhelmed, leaving patients without the necessary care.”
The virus growth rate can be reduced by self-quarantine and social distancing and this ‘flattens the curve’ of infection and therefore, the health system is not overwhelmed. However, this scenario does not mean less infection, it merely reduces the speed of infection and therefore could mean the Pandemic lasts longer.
The USA are also hit hard and news has come in via TMZ that San Francisco will go on a three week lockdown with around the clock curfew.
“Mayor London Breed announced what she calls a “defining moment” in U.S. response to the pandemic. Beginning at 12 AM, all residents within the city can only leave home for doctor’s appointments or runs to the grocery store.”
Who are most at risk?
Medically vulnerable people need to keep a safe distance from others. Nursing homes need to do everything possible to prevent Covid-19 from entering their doors from both visitors and staff. The elderly are at a high risk. People with chronic conditions. Gladly, it would appear that children do not appear to get as sick. If you are young and healthy, you are unlikely to get severely ill, but this is when social distancing is so important, because you are ok, the impact of the people you interact with can have a huge impact.
Virus and runners – any special considerations?
Firstly, if you are fit and healthy, this puts you in a great place for surviving Covid-19, especially if you are a runner who enjoys open spaces. However, meeting up with run friends, attending races and interacting with large groups provides a perfect opportunity to spread the virus. If you are a gym fanatic, you need a re-think and avoid, “I think people should be extra vigilant in any area where there may be lots of people close together and sharing equipment such as gyms as this may increase transmission of infection.”
Now is the time to train alone, seek open spaces (if allowed*) and enjoy some lonely time. Also, important to point out that now is not the time to train really hard and suppress your immune system, this could leave you vulnerable to infection.
Needless to say, races are being cancelled all over the world. Originally, the criteria specified events over a certain number. However, as time passes, any event that brings people together should be cancelled or postponed at least in the short term. Of course, there is an impact for races and I wrote an article here with my thoughts.
Surprisingly, some events, for example parkrun, in my opinion have provided the Covid-19 a great opportunity to spread. They cancelled events in 15 countries based on local government advice, however, in the UK, on Saturday March 14th, they had 678 events with a total participation number of 139,873 people because the UK government said it was ok to do so! When you keep in mind how contagious Covid-19 is, the opportunity to spread the virus just with parkrun members alone is terrifying. In a release via their website, parkrun said:
“We believe that during challenging times it is more important than ever that communities are able to come together socially and support each other if appropriate and safe.”
Unfortunately, coming together socially spreads the virus at an alarming rate. I don’t wish to parkrun bash; I just feel that the implications of this number of people are off-the-scale.
Update March 18th, finally parkrun see sense:
All parkrun events in the UK have been suspended with immediate effect due to the ongoing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation. All events will be cancelled until at least the end of March 👉🏾parkrun.me/covid19
*In Spain I have been informed that police are stopping individual runners in the countryside and in France, fines of 100 to 600 euros could be put in place with the possibility of a year in jail.
How long could this last?
Although the coronavirus pandemic will certainly get worse before it gets better, it will get better. And even at the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, many people (no one knows what proportion) will not get infected, and, of those who do get infected, 99 out of 100 will recover. So, it’s responsible to be proactive now to limit the harms of Covid-19, but it’s also good to keep in mind that this, too, will pass. The timescale is yet unknown.
To conclude, some perspective:
“Hi everyone, I wanted to send a message to my friends on Facebook. I live in Lombardy (Italy) in the area with the most infections and I am in quarantine because I came into contact with a person who tested positive at Covid-19. This situation is difficult (do not leave the house) but if it is for the good of all and it must be done. Covid-19 is a very serious problem that affects the whole world, there is no one who can be considered excluded. Above all it attacks the weakest people, the elderly and people who already have illness problems. Nobody can be considered immune. You may also be a carrier, the problem is that, even if you appear well, you can infect the people who are close to you; the weakest, perhaps the ones you love most? You have to stay away and stay home otherwise we won’t solve the problem. Please think carefully, how would you feel if you infected someone you love?” – Roberto Rovelli
And finally, …
When people are quarantined and life is restricted, two things happen, pregnancy and divorce increases, so, make love, not war!
Details around Covid-19 are changing by the day and at times, by the hour, so, please keep up to date with any changes at a local and global level.
Short term inconvenience and the sun will shine again.
As a runner, you more than likely will take time in the off-season; to sit down and plan the coming season. You will look for the ‘A’ races that hopefully will allow you to shine and achieve those personal goals – you will dedicate hours, weeks and months to prepare.
You will enter ‘B’ and ‘C’ races that will allow you to learn and adapt.
In this scenario, imagine the Race Directors who are planning the races that you will attend. Just as you plan and prepare, so do they, typically one-year in advance so that when the time comes you have a slick, well-prepared event that will allow you to achieve your goal.
Planning and working on a race really is a labour of love and yes, it’s a business.
Race Directors usually start planning immediately after the end of one event. Budgets are worked out, a timeline is put in place and then a team of people, headed by the RD, put a plan in action. This will involve route planning, course marking, providing gpx files, booking venues, planning medical care, arranging for catering, advertising the race, booking cars, maintaining a website, booking a timing system, arranging for photography/video and the list goes on…
It is endless!
To secure services, many of these items are paid well in advance of the race and in most scenarios, a non-refundable deposit will have been paid and at worst, a full balance to ensure that no problems arise.
As an event approaches, typically 8-weeks or less before the event, all invoices are paid and the RD can sit back knowing that a job is well done.
The race fee that you the runner pays doesn’t just cover the day or multiple days of the race, it covers a year or work!
Now imagine you are the RD. You have been diligent; you have crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s. You are, you think, prepared for any eventuality and then Covid-19 comes along and rips your world apart.
Through no fault of your own, your race is cancelled because one needs to take responsibility for the health and safety of not only runners, but staff and their teams. In many situations, this decision is often taken away from the RD as it comes from a government level.
I am asking you all to take stock of the situation, sit back and take time to reflect on the RD, the team of people involved in the race and the implications of cancelling or postponement.
I personally arrived in Hong Kong in January only to find that as my plane landed in HK, the race I was arriving for was cancelled due to the ever-changing Covid-19 virus.
So, as a runner what can you do?
First of all, there is immense disappointment for each of us on a personal level as an event that we have prepared and dreamed of is removed.
Then attention turns to several scenarios:
Can I change my travel plans and what will the cost be?
Can I get a refund on the race?
Will the race postpone and plan for later in the year?’
Will the race defer my place and give me entry next year?
What about my hotel booking?
The list goes on.
Let’s be clear here, the Covid-19 scenario is impacting on the world at an unprecedented level. Just yesterday, Omar Hassan writing in The Independent stated that:
‘Coronavirus will bankrupt more people than it kills – and that is a real global emergency.’
Millions of dollars have been wiped from the financial markets but this impact filters down and down to a grass roots level and the impact will be huge for all of us.
‘If the virus does directly affect your life, it is most likely to be through stopping you going to work, forcing your employer to make you redundant, or bankrupting your business.’
So, when asking the RD and race for a refund on race entry, please just take time to step back and think, in these special circumstances, can you afford to let that fee go so that you can at least provide an opportunity for that race to return the following year.
Most races will have insurance, but having spoken with multiple insurance experts, the general consensus is, ‘Successful claims under business interruption coverage for infection are not common… Indeed, for example, there are no reported cases in the United States regarding business interruption coverage in connection with human infectious disease epidemics or pandemics.’ – via stroock.com
Even sport specific insurance companies who look after runners/ sports people doing ‘extreme’ sports are confirming that there is no cover for disease, virus or pandemic.
In the last week, Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, Madeira Island Ultra Trail, Ultra Skymarathon Madeira and so many more have had to pull the plug on a 2020 event. Even the iconic Marathon des Sables has had to postpone and the financial impact of this is still yet to be seen.
In the words of one Race Director, ‘When the Government cancel all Sport Events or public gatherings we are in big trouble, insurance does not cover us in case of pandemics.’
Masako Suzuki, of Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji recently sent out a press release and in it he says:
‘…we apologize for causing great trouble to racers who have been training and preparing for this race, volunteers who have participated in the course maintenance thus far, volunteers who were planning to work during the race, and UTMF supporters including sponsors, companies participating in the UTMF Expo, public and private organisations, and local people.’
The impact is far reaching, cancellations are happening everywhere, and racing is just one aspect. Schools are closing, employees are being asked to work from home, airlines are reducing flights daily and asking staff to go on unpaid leave, hotels are empty, and restaurants are closing. Covid-19 is without doubt a health crisis but it is also an economic crisis.
“It may one day be said that the coronavirus delivered the deathblow to the New World Order, to a half-century of globalization and to the era of interdependence of the world’s great nations.” – WND here
One of the key jobs of a race team is risk management, many races, UTMF, MIUT, USM and so on all started to look at logistics and emergency planning long before the decision to cancel was made. The money is spent!
So please, when you ask for a refund or deferment, just ask the question,
‘Can I let my fee go for 2020?’
And in the process, hopefully, the race you entered will be around in 2021.
It is highly likely that some races will not recover from this but we as runner’s and a community, in a small way, can help keep the sport we love alive to fight for another time.
‘I have been organising #USM for some years now with a fantastic team. We always aimed high because we were convinced, he had a SUPER event. We still do,’ João Canning Clode announced via Facebook, ‘This was the most difficult decision we had to take in all these years. But the health and safety of our athletes, teams, local community, fans and volunteers is of vital importance. We move on…’
As a closing note, we all need perspective. Covid-19 is killing people daily and my heart aches for the distress and loss from this pandemic. Italy, as an example, have been hit so very hard and they have now entered Wartime Triage. This is truly catastrophic for all. But the government have stepped up to the plate and suspended payments on mortgages. When asked about the possibility of halting mortgage payments on Radio Anch’io, Laura Castelli, the deputy economy minister, said: ‘Yes, that will be the case, for individuals and households.’ I applaud that leadership and foresight. We can all learn a lesson from this action. (Article here)
COVID-19 aka CORONAVIRUS is creating chaos and panic over the world and rightly so. For sure, the media has taken hold of it and created a scenario of fear, however, after SARS respecting any potential pandemic is no bad thing.
I am not a medical expert but I travel and I travel a great deal. With much of my work taking places at races, public gatherings and in locations throughout Europe and beyond, I wanted to understand what I was dealing with and pass on my thoughts.
I was in Hong Kong in January for a race. As I landed and transferred to meet the RD for dinner, the race was cancelled… Yes, the virus and reaction to it was changing by the hour.
I decided to cut my trip short, escape Hong Kong and return to the UK so that it would not impact on future work.
As February comes to a close, the situation is now greater than one month ago with the virus appearing in New Zealand, Italy and many more locations.
CDC have listed several points on the virus:
The virus is spread mainly person-to-person.
Between people in close contact, less than 6-feet.
Via respiratory droplets when coughing or sneezing by an infected person.
Touching surfaces or an object that has the virus on it – this is then passed on when the person then touches eyes, nose or mouth.
It appears that people who are infected are most contagious when at their sickest.
Some virus spreading may be possible before people show symptoms.
You will have seen many images coming from China and Hong Kong showing everyone wearing masks. Do not be fooled into thinking this is a completely safe thing to do – masks have issues and problems:
You only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person WITH the virus.
Wear a mask if YOU are coughing and sneezing, this stops potential spreading.
Masks are only effective when combined with frequent hand cleansing.
Masks MUST be worn correctly and changed regularly.
Tips for mask use:
Clean hands with alcohol based cleanser.
Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps.
Do not touch the mask whilst wearing, if you do, cleanse hands.
If mask becomes damp, replace.When removing mask, do not touch the front, remove from behind and discard immediately.
As a runner or endurance athlete, the last thing we want is a virus that impacts on breathing. Covid-19 needs to be respected, despite what you may think about the media and its scaremonger tactics.
Cases are now reaching close to 100,000 and the situation is changing daily.
Incubation period is up to two weeks and this is why the virus is spreading worldwide, it is so difficult to track and contain. Once a positive case is found, it is too late as more will be infected and then the reverse pyramid scenario starts.
What can you do?
Look after personal hygiene.
Avoid public places and gatherings.
When traveling, avoid travel through highly infected areas. Particularly important for long-haul travel. Much better to pass through the Middle East (for now) than pass through China, Hong Kong or Bangkok.
Face masks have a place but understand the restrictions that they have.
Public toilets, bars, restaurants etc etc are a potential perfect storm for passing on the virus, so, avoid in areas of potential or real risk.
As I write, the W.H.O says we are at a ‘Decisive Point’ in the outbreak.
Cases in the UK have risen (19) and New Zealand, Italy, Iran, South Korea and Nigeria have announced first cases. The stock markets across the globe have plunged under the fear of recession. Cases have been confirmed above 84,000 and currently 2867 deaths (sources The Independent and Worldometers)
The Swiss government has banned events with more than 1000 people and already we have seen mass participation events cancelled globally.
NBC has confirmed the virus has spread to at least 40 countries worldwide. It says cases in the USA have been limited but warns, “Americans should prepare for the spread of the virus in communities.”
Ultimately, COVID-19 currently is spreading, we personally need to be aware of risks and mitigate as appropriate. With each passing day, more news comes in and it can be terrifying but let’s keep perspective too, the common Flu can kill up to 646,000 people per year (medicinenet.com) – the figure coming from the US Centers for Disease Control.
So, be careful out there and keep a perspective of the risk, start to do the following now: