The Loneliness of the Socially Distanced Runner

February was the best month of running I’ve had in ten years. I could feel all the miles I’d banked accruing interest. Yes, at over 40 miles per week, I was constantly exhausted. Yes, getting up on Tuesdays and Thursdays before dawn, and then finishing a full workout before dawn, was daunting. But it was worth it for the fitness gains I started to see in every run. I looked forward to my upcoming races with not only confidence, but hunger.

Late in February I got a bit thrown off schedule; I took a three day trip to visit my alma mater in Ithaca, NY. Ithaca is in middle-of-nowhere New York, and there are no direct flights there, or even to the nearby mega metropolis of Syracuse, from Seattle. So I spent an entire day traveling, one day braving the frigid Ithaca winter, and than another day traveling back to Seattle. I got back onto schedule as soon as I returned. Today, I chuckle when I recollect feeling miffed about small disruptions in my life such as a three day trip.

My Strava training calendar.

Now, in a world brought to the brink by COVID-19, I daydream about the alternate timeline where my training plan proceeded as scheduled. In total:

  • Both half-marathons I had planned to run in the Spring were cancelled (Disney held out for a while but I think it was pretty clear a couple weeks ago that they would cancel).
  • My running club has cancelled all runs through March 2020. I’ll be shocked if they pick up again 10 days from now.
  • Even small group runs of 2-3 people feel awkward at best and dangerous at worst.
  • I’ve been working from home since March 4th.

The circumstances above might be interesting if they were not so ubiquitous. It might make sense to complain about any of these things if our entire way of life wasn’t being irrevocably changed as I write this.

But running is my outlet, so I write about running.

For about two weeks after COVID-19 started getting out of control in Washington state, I felt like I was just reeling from daily news and couldn’t bring myself to get out there and run. I hadn’t really adjusted to working from home and ended each day feeling sore just from sitting around too much.

This week I started forcing a shift. I have run the last 4 days, and I’m glad to be catching the perfect Spring weather. I’ve always thought of running as a social sport: I run to make friends, I run to hang out with people outside of work. Now, with social distancing as our civic duty and gyms closed to boot, I find myself thankful that I have an athletic outlet which I can pursue on my own.

Published by Jordan Atlas

Sharing my thoughts about running as an almost real adult.

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