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For the Greater Good, Let’s Stop Running in Groups

As the U.S. tries to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, runners need to do their part. Let’s keep our distance for a while.

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During a global pandemic that has closed gyms, exercise studios, pools, and even ski slopes, running is still an accessible and a safe way to exercise. Thank goodness. But if we want to hang on to our right to run as the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) spreads around the world, we’re going to have to stop logging our mileage in groups.

We’ve known for a long time that the “loneliness of the long distance runner” is a myth. And never has that been more evident as it is now, during a time when public health experts and government officials are telling Americans to stay at least 6 feet away from each other at all times (unless you share a home). But it seems that many of us just can’t quit each other on the run. While some pro runners have used their platforms to discourage people from hitting tracks, roads, and trails together, we still see teams, clubs, and buddies ignoring that advice and possibly contributing to spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Fellow runners, please let’s adhere to the rules of social distancing,” said Aliphine Tuliamuk, who won the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on February 29. “Run alone. I don’t want to lose the privileges of running outside. Let’s do our part and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.”

Emma Coburn, 2016 steeplechase Olympic bronze medalist, and her Colorado-based training group have also ceased group practices.

“We are adapting. We are respecting this new reality and hope everyone else is respecting it too,” Coburn wrote on Instagram. “Stay healthy.”

To be clear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only way to stop the spread of the coronavirus is for people to refrain from close contact. Even those who are asymptomatic may carry the virus and unknowingly give it to other people who could are at risk for extreme illness or death. Is running with your friends worth risking somebody else’s life?

Already some restrictions have gone into effect to try to stifle the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In France, for example, people are only allowed to walk or run outside solo for up to one hour, within a one-kilometer radius of their home. In Chicago, the popular Lakefront and Riverwalk are now closed because too many people were running, walking, and cycling in close proximity to each other.

Kaitlin Goodman, a 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and public health professional, has reinforced the call for all runners to stay away from each other during the pandemic. On Friday she wrote, “Runners: Quit running in groups,” she tweeted. “Unless you want to end up like France or Italy, in full lockdown with very limited options for outdoor activities.”

We may remain apart for a while, but we’re all in this together. Get outside, go running, but go solo. We’re cheering you on (from afar)—and when group runs are back on, it will make all the miles that much sweeter.

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