Sunday, March 22, 2020

Running During the Pandemic

It was a beautiful morning for a run...hopefully we will continue to practice social distancing so we won't need to follow Italy's lead and ban all outdoor activity. It is times like these where I appreciate that, as an introvert, social distancing is a natural inclination and not something that will require me to change my lifestyle significantly.

For me, California's safer at home rule is more like business as usual (I continue to spend long hours seated at a computer)...except that this marks the first time that I have been a full-time employee of a game developer that I have worked from home. At my current employer, I have always had this option, but never bothered to set up my home PC to do so before last Monday (my boss voluntarily imposed a work from home policy ahead of the County and State mandate).  For this past week, running has been the only time I have stepped away from my property. I have a feeling I will value it more the longer we are encouraged to stay home and miss it if a more thorough lockdown goes into effect to slow the spread of Novel Coronavirus.

I have always preferred to run alone. Even when I'm outside for hours pushing the distances and struggling up the final hills, I like the solitude...though I definitely need music to accompany my journey. Sure I have seen benefits of running with friends, work colleagues, and clubs, but, in general, I like not being bound by another's schedule, free to chase my own goals based on how I am feeling at any given moment. Yes, this requires a great deal of self-discipline and self-motivation (being able to eat what I want is powerful motivation), especially in the latter weeks of a marathon training schedule, but, again, this is how I tend to approach everything I do in life. I have never shied away from putting in the really hard effort, but it helps to have goals (hence why I sign up for endurance races) and to understand that putting in the effort directly corresponds to whether or not such goals can be achieved.

Today has some significance since it marks two weeks since I ran the Los Angeles Marathon. As I have not developed any symptoms (other than a cough that could easily be dismissed as seasonal allergies), I can now say I likely did not get exposed to COVID-19 while running from the Stadium to the Sea. I was never really concerned I would contract it from fellow marathoners, especially those who qualified to start from a seeded corral alongside of me. Anyone who has run one of these before and has enough incentive to start from the corrals probably has invested a similar amount of time and effort in their training...and likely spent the month before the marathon consciously avoiding situations that would increase exposure to any illness (I was a little worried about traveling to Oahu during what is normally my peak week of training, but had more reasons to be concerned about a couple of coworkers who came to work sick in the weeks surrounding my trip). No one wants to run a marathon while sick.

That said, I ran Los Angeles in 2015 without realizing I had a fever (just before the race, I had developed a slight headache, my throat was dry, and I had a queasiness in my stomach). I had no reason to believe I was sick because I had no symptoms at any point before then, but was finding it hard to keep running 17 miles into the race. I managed to complete the marathon, but didn't truly understand my compromised physical state until we headed to the car (thankfully, I wasn't driving). We stopped for lunch and I couldn't stomach eating a burger. I got home and continued to feel uncomfortable in the shower. I decided to take my temperature...102...which quickly became 104 by the time I hit the bed. My head was throbbing, so I had a hard time getting comfortable. When I finally fell asleep, I didn't wake up until the next morning...and then I pretty much slept through that day as well. I felt so bad that I nearly swore off running another marathon.

In other words, I probably should have been more concerned when I ran this year's Los Angeles Marathon...considering that most people will not have any reason to believe they have been infected by the Novel Coronavirus until they have already spread it to others. While I am sure everyone who even slightly felt sick stayed home, a marathon is supported by many volunteers who come into close contact with the runners. The official ones wore gloves while handing out water, electrolytes, and Clif shots, but there were others on the course holding bowls with cut fruit, licorice, gummy bears, and other various treats. Had they taken precautions while preparing their handouts? In those cases, a runner would have to reach into their bowls with their bare hands...which had likely been used to consume items or rub sweat from their faces. And what about those handing out the medals after the race?

Two weeks after 2020, I still have my health, so I can safely reflect upon this year's race as nothing but a positive experience. I continue to believe the city made the right choice by letting the event continue, but a lot changed over the week that followed the race. The race would have likely been canceled had it been scheduled on the 15th, definitely so had it been scheduled for today. It is clear the only way to stop it is to take unprecedented measures to keep people from spreading the virus. And if that eventually means no more running outside I may have to rethink my opinion of treadmills.

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