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.
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.
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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.