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How Social Distancing During the Pandemic Has Changed the Way Elite Athletes Are Training

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Although each state and county is going to have slightly varying ordinances around slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, the special White House task force is continuing to hone in on guidelines for social distancing with the hopes to slow the spread in 15 days. The latest update includes working from home if possible, avoid social gatherings of more than ten people, utilize drive-through and takeout options at restaurants, avoid unnecessary travel, and don’t visit nursing homes.

For many, it’s a majorthough necessarylife change taking place in a mere matter of days. And elite runners are no exception. Much like the rest of the running community (and frankly, the world), pros have been forced to navigate this new normal of social distancing in a time of the coronavirus pandemic—from gym closures and group run cancellations to now handling home schooling of their children. 

For the past few days they’ve been sharing their thoughts, concerns, and training updates on social media, and it’s been a refreshing reminder that, while we’re social distancing, we’re still all in this together.

Like many of us, elite runners are leading by example, practicing social distancing by working out alone. 

Some (okay, Des Linden) don’t seem to mind the isolation. #IntrovertsUnite

Most professional athletes have had to make some kind of modification to their usual group training routines to better align with the country-wide health recommendations. Alexi Pappas, for example, shared that her team is only seeing each other and moving their drills to more removed locations. 

While world champion steeplechaser Emma Coburn shared that her Boulder-based training group, which is coached by her husband Joe Bosshard and includes fellow female runners Laura Thweatt, Aisha Praught Leer, Corey McGee, and Dominique Scott-Efurd, have stopped all group practice.

“Joe made the decision to suspend all group practice,” Coburn wrote on Instagram. “We are all training still, but we will do workouts solo or maybe with one teammate. We are adapting. We are respecting this new reality and hope everyone else is respecting it too!” 

A few have even tested some, we’ll say creative, solutions should any further social-distancing or isolation restrictions be put into effect. [Editor’s Note: While we find Olympian Paul Chelimo’s “bathtub treadmill” hack hilarious, and a much-needed moment of levity, we don’t actually recommend trying this one. Hospitals have enough to worry about right now.]

Pros with kiddos like Stephanie Bruce have offered a glimpse into what it’s like trying to keep everyone in their house moving and healthy during a pandemic.

(We’re not sure, but Bruce’s NAZ-Elite teammate Kellyn Taylor may have just one-upped her? On Tuesday, Taylor shared on Twitter that they have taken in two foster children under the age of two.)

But most importantly, with all the uncertainty, cancellations, postponements, and changes to hard-and-set routines, elite runners have been reminding all of us that it’s okay to be disappointed, or thrown off, or upset. But it’s also more important than ever to focus hard on why you choose to run, and look for every bright side possible.

As pro trail runner Sally McRae so eloquently stated: “I know…as I have learned dozens of times beforethat my life is meaningful and full of purpose far beyond standing at a START line; medal or not; recognition or not. And so, to YOU, precious heartsit’s ok to be upset about altered plans & it’s ok to be frustrated about all that hard work you put in whether in training or in the office, only to watch it fade away. It’s ok to be upset.”

“But don’t let it keep you from being YOU,” McRae continued. “Don’t let it keep you from growing; from trying; and from being the best you can be. THIS my friends, is where character is built and strength is refined. I promise youthere is a bright side.”