A long race: Running from the virus

David Yon, April 15, 2020
March 7, 2020, was the last weekend of racing in Tallahassee. I ran the Shamrock Scurry 5K that weekend. Two weeks later, Rachel and Zack Scharlepp, directors of the Springtime Tallahassee races, were told there would be no race on March 28. Only a few days after that Mark Priddy, director of the Palace Saloon 5K, moved that race from April 11 to Oct. 24.

No doubt the impact of COVID-19 around the globe exceeds anything I have experienced, and it is nowhere near the end of its destructive travels. No one is predicting with any confidence when the next race will get to go. As the deaths and hospitalizations increase, the restrictions on our movements and activities become greater. We can still reach out for each other, but it is primarily through a computer, a camera and a microphone.

And so far, we can still run. It must be alone or in small groups that can respect the 6-foot safety zone we have lovingly dubbed “social distancing.” You can find the “right to run” right there on page 4 of Executive Order 20-91.

But for that little carve-out the order would have required all persons in Florida to limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.

As a result of so many restrictions many lives have been saved. But so too many lives have been turned upside down as people find themselves unemployed, alone, threatened and more. I worry we will learn too well how to socially distance ourselves.

Among other things, just as happened once the internet became a common source of information for merchants, huge privacy rights will, for better or worse, be gone.

I was not around for the 1918 influenza pandemic which infected, according

to the Center for Disease Control as many as 30 percent of the population. But the stories and pictures are vivid enough to understand what people went through. While “only” killing an estimated (675,000) people from the US, worldwide estimates declare the number of deaths to be at least 20 million (50 million according to the Center for Disease Control).

Apparently, it attacked in three waves – the first in the spring of 1918, the second and most deadly in the fall of that year and the third in the winter of 1918. The flu received a great boost unfortunately from US soldiers who apparently took it to war zones all around Europe.

It is ironic, but not surprising given our culture these days, that COVID -19 influenza, a disease that has infected more than 1,844,410 people around the world and has now killed at least 114,000 people, forces people into corners and makes it more difficult than ever to work together to find a way to stop the spread and the deaths.

In a day when we seem so intensely divided, we appear to be saved from this deadly beast by separating people who want to be together and rebuffing all efforts to come close to each other. It is tough to watch the number of people losing their businesses, employment, health care First, we lost Springtime, no more than 50, 10 – 6 feet apart. Springtime, Palace, closed tracks — touch felt through the glass intended to keep us separated – like a family member trying so hard to feel something through the security glass. The numbers climbed higher.

Long ago, we began building the trails in our community that we have come to cherish so much. Yes, the group size must be smaller than it used to be required and we can’t run circles around the track right now. But running alone is enough if need be. Running with your friends is a wonderful gift. As long as I can lace up my running shoes and go “to the mountains” the “rest is details.”

I am not alone. In fact, as I run along many of my favorite trails, I am seeing more people than ever. I can still find places to run alone but, wow. This week’s

biggest explosion so far has been the number of face masks. Tough to run in a mask, but the person behind the cash register sure appreciates customers who wear masks.

As the stay at home directives continue and the restrictions clamp down harder on our freedoms, my running has expanded, and I remain reasonably sane. Last week I ran more than 60 miles in a week for the first time in many years. I was not trying to do so but the great escape followed by “Did I really go that far?” kept pushing those miles up.

I have had some hard runs, some awful runs, some slow runs and some beautiful runs.

The fact that none of the runs were races is actually OK. They have all been good runs. And my small group of runners will, like many others around this area, have solidified a bond that will likely never break.