on the pandemic

In February 2020 the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak of COVID-19 an international emergency. This means a lot of things to a lot of people, but as I train for an autumn marathon (that may easily be cancelled due to a looming pandemic) it’s something worth writing about that this year the biggest threat to any runner’s training may be running with other people.

Spin From Home, Pandemic Style

March 18, 2020

I posted a retweet the other day. Back around Christmas, remember Peloton had a little commercial that went viral for all the wrong reasons?

I bet that lady is pretty psyched about having a Peloton now. ...the tweet said.

I spent Day 1 of my new work from home reality (as many of us probably did) hunched in a chair for nearly 12 hours staring at no fewer than four screens, occasionally breaking to refill my coffee, or grab a snack, or play a few songs on my violin. No mindless walks through the pedways. No stroll outside. No dashing from meeting to meeting. The second time in an hour I went upstairs, my daughter (now off school indefinitely) remarked: You sure take a lot of breaks!

No, I need to stretch.

This is plan is unsustainable. Obviously.

So I've decided that my new plan involves some morning spin. I woke up at my normal time (I'm going to keep a bedtime routine, dammit!) and instead of hitting the shower I pulled on some shorts and a run shirt and wandered to the basement where I keep my spin bike. Back around the same time that Peloton viral advert hit the socials, I had coincidentally just started using the Digital service on my iPad. It's got a few less features than buying the bike and full service, but it does the trick. And a few weeks ago I had considered dumping it as the weather gets warmer.

I'M pretty psyched about having a Peloton now.

Adding a 30 minute workout to my morning routine has already put me in a more chipper mood this morning. Ready to face the day, even if that is just another 12 hours in my basement. Hopefully I can muster the willpower to make it a daily thing, but for now having a plan is probably a good start.

Read more Pandemic-related writing.

The End of the World Run Club

March 17, 2020

For historical reference, to those reading this in the distant future trying to piece together what happened in the early months of the 2020s, here's how my week went:

About a week ago I we were watching the news of a looming viral outbreak with modest concern, planning how we would cope if this thing got out of hand, but eagerly preparing for a family vacation to Disney World starting on March 20th. A flight to Florida, ten days in a resort hotel, theme parks, spring break, a trip to NASA and Universal Studios. I was pondering how I would fit some running into the mix and researching jogging paths near and around the hotel.

On Wednesday (while we were out running) the US started shutting down travel from Europe.

On Thursday, Disney World announced it was closing to the public for an indefinite time period.

On Friday, things started getting serious and after cancelling all our vacation plans, I was unceremoniously pulled into a crisis communications team at work.

On Saturday, our city shut down most public recreation facilities and public attractions.

On Sunday, the province cancelled classes for all school and essentially ended the school year.

On Monday, my employer sent everyone who could do, into work-from-home mode. The Canadian government strongly urged everyone to stop travelling or to come home. The stock markets had their worst day in recorded history. And stopping at the grocery store on my way home I lived a scene from an end-of-the-world movie in my real life.

On Tuesday, today, St. Patrick's Day, they told people not to gather in bars or restaurants. The news calls this the "new normal" and that today, in March, is the beginning of what is likely 4 months of managed isolation from each other.

Smart or not, we're going to meet in a parking lot tonight, keep ourselves at a safe distance, and run about six klicks through some warming winter asphalt trails. I guess high-fives are probably out of the question.

Running in the apocalypse is simple: no one who is feeling in any way sick is gonna run anyways. There is lots of space. Social distancing is natural and easy. And in this time of isolation and potential loneliness, locked in our homes with limited physical activity, it is probably a good way to stay fit mentally and emotionally.

What are the rules for running you would follow during this new normal?

Nothing to do with Panic

March 9, 2020

It's not about panic. It's about preparation.

I hesitate to give the illusion that I'm freaking out about this coronavirus scare, but somewhere between on one end, the mentally-vacant, hoax-ranting, self-served gibberish of some politicians I won't name and on the other end, locking myself in a sterile room for the next year, there is middle ground.

It's not that I'm frantically preparing for a viral pandemic. It's that I'm carefully preparing for the effects of people frantically reacting to a viral pandemic. And washing my hands a lot, too. It would be irresponsible to ignore that how people and governments react is going to affect every single one of us.

I started making myself a list of links and bookmarks so that when I got on a plane in a couple weeks and wanted to quickly access all those great sites I've researched but couldn't quickly remember what they were, then I'd have a list. Then I thought, why don't I just put it online here:

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Directory

What's that all about? It's not panic. It's preparation.

Reusable Coffee Cups

March 5, 2020

Media ...news... stories... workplace plans. These are one thing, but I’m sitting here in Starbucks this morning as I encounter literally the first obvious sign of a looming pandemic. Starbucks, the note taped to the cash register says, has suspended the use of personal reusable cups in the interest of reducing the risk of viral transmission.

It’s a small thing. Such a tiny, small, little thing. But it’s a thing that reminds me even as we chat and debate and fill our lingering quiet fears with awkward dark humour, that this is a real thing and it’s very really coming in some shape or another.

Coronavirus has been a topic of conversation in our house because when you are the parent to a twelve year old girl you are not only the teacher of critical thinking skills — and oh boy is this ever the time for critical thinking skills — but simultaneously fighting the waves of misinformation, speculation, rumour and bat-shit crazy interpretations coming from the minds of teenagers locked together in a school for day after day after day with access to youtube and podcasts and blipblop-whatever-social media platform they use now.

I’m a runner, tho. And what I’ve been watching is the races. I just dropped a few grand on travel arrangements for a trip to Chicago in October to run the giant marathon there, a marathon where tens of thousands of people with gather together in a very close group and breathe and cough and spit and sweat all over each other in a hot, virus-paradise of spandex and human flesh. If there is going to be a pandemic, by October we’ll either know or be reading this archive of ideas with the innocent nostalgia of a unwittingly dodged bullet.

But here’s the other thing: my plan was to train with people this summer. Ten hours a week of running. Tens if not a hundred-plus klicks of distance. It’s lonely if you don’t have someone to share that with. But from where I sit — in a Starbucks afraid of touching plastic cups — the biggest threat to my training — and the training of all my friends, cuz I sure as hell am not immune to this virus any more than anyone else — is group runs.

We were running last night and my pal, who just got over a bit of chest cold last week, couldn’t avoid but coughing a few rough, wet bursts into the air in front of us as we climbed a long, light hill. Whatever. But no, right? It was sub-zero and who can say what a few seconds of cold air does to a virus, but there I went and with a nanosecond to react, I couldn’t, and I ran through a cloud of contagion for just a second. Not coronavirus. Not this time. But it’s that simple. It’s going to be that simple. How are you feeling tonight? I’ll be back here where it’s safe.