COVID-19: Run… but keep your distance

Solo running gradually replaces group runs in Hyderabad

Sunday long distance runs usually attract 200 to 300 members of the Hyderabad Runners group. The location for the run is posted on their website (hyderabadrunners.com) or on social media pages and members turn up, cheering and motivating each other to run better and for longer duration.

Last Sunday when members gathered for a run from Indira Park to Charminar, Dr Murali Nannapaneni, physician and president of Hyderabad Runners (HR), briefed them on the changes that will come into force in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. There will be no more large group runs. The annual awards night for runners, scheduled to be held in March end, has also been postponed.

The running and training calendar has now been tweaked, to comply with the increased emphasis on social distancing. For the 6000+ active members of HR in 30+ running groups across the city, ‘run on your own’ has replaced group sessions.

“We take pride in promoting health and wellness. It would be ironical if we ignore guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the government. I’m a risk taker, but not this time. We all need to be responsible,” says Murali.

Sunder Nagesh, a runner and marathon pacer from LB Nagar, says it’s ideal to run on your own or with a known friend or two who have no recent travel history and are preferably working from home: “All official training programmes have been put on hold. Mentors in different areas of Hyderabad, who train other runners, have been issued guidelines for social distancing.”Until a later date

  • The Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Antarctica Marathon and the Big Sur International Marathon are among the international running events that have been put on hold

Running groups have risen to the occasion and are responding with ideas. Sunder mentions how the KBR group shared online workout videos while the Alwal WhatsApp group came up with guidelines for runners in the locality. As the days of uncertainty continue, online videos for strength training and yoga are likely to come up.

Jacqueline Babitha Xavier who trains runners and non-runners in Secunderabad has taken a stance to not meet anyone she coaches and encourages them to work out in their residences. Apart from runners, she conducts training sessions for women during pre and postnatal stages, cancer survivors and the elderly. “I’ve shared videos and advised them to work out on their own, with caution. Unknowingly, any of us could be carriers of the virus and it’s best to avoid contact, so that we don’t make those with low immunity vulnerable,” she says.

Earlier, her group sessions for strength training for runners would entail the use of props such as resistance bands and kettlebells that were shared. Now, even if small groups meet, bodyweight workouts are encouraged and a double arm distance is maintained. “We run or train for health. So we should follow safety guidelines and not put others and ourselves at risk,” she says.

International marathons that were scheduled for April and May have been put on hold and the immediate running calendar is not a busy one. Runners understand the need to stay fit and keep their immunity strong, and at the same exercise caution.

Sunita Tummalapalli was to take part in the Antarctica marathon, scheduled for March 28, which was now been called off. She takes a pragmatic approach and says, “It won’t hurt if you don’t run for a week or two, or just run alone. You can do strength training workouts, yoga and cardio at home. There’s enough time to practice for the annual Hyderabad Marathon in August.” Her usual running zone, the Gachibowli stadium, remains closed. Elaborating on guidelines that runners have to follow, she says, “As it is, when we meet other runners during a session, we don’t do handshakes because we are sweaty. It’s usually a fist thump. Now we avoid that as well.”

If you’re wondering if all this is an overreaction, not really. It’s better to be safe than sorry and maybe guilty, says Murali: “A few weeks down the line maybe things would settle down and we might look back and think we panicked more than necessary. But if there’s community transmission like in the case of other countries, given our population density, it could be disastrous. So all the steps that we take, as individuals, can help curb the spread of COVID-19.”

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