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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.
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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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.