I cannot get this picture out of my head. The person in front is one of those speedy runners zipping past me on my daily run, and the person in the back, splattered with COVID-19 lurgies, is of course ME dragging along behind!
A new study, a collaboration between Leuven University in Belgium and Eindhoven University in the Netherlands, popped up in my Facebook feed last night with this picture [thanks to my cousin Cindy]. The title “Why in times of COVID-19 you can not walk/run/bike close to each other” demanded to be clicked. I definitely needed to know about this.
If the speedy runner’s “cloud of droplets” are free of contamination, then this is reduced to an abstract yuck factor. If they do have COVID-19 however, then I’m getting slammed. The trails along our bayou are narrow. Running single file is the only option in many places. Geez, yet another COVID worry that will require extra vigilance. Is it even possible to make my outdoor routes safe? To what extremes do I really need to take all these precautions?!?!
With this new picture imprinted in my brain, I braved one of my usual routes this morning. Everyone in my field of vision became a potential threat. I continuously scanned the horizon, like one of those green radar screens on a submarine … in an old movie. Bleep – adjust – bleep again – adjust course again. Avoid the torpedoes and destroyers. I could see all these imaginary emissions spewing behind the runners, walkers and bikers around me.
According to latest findings in this Belgian-Dutch study, “the scientist advises that for walking the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meters, for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters.”
That’s all well and good, but when they quietly sneak up behind me, and swish past me, I have little recourse. They breeze by, cut in front, and I’m sprayed (see picture again) by the time I can react.
The study states that “The risk of contamination is the biggest when people are just behind each other, in each other’s slipstream.”
So when forced into the “slipstream” what can I do? Slide down the embankment to the water, or jump out into the deep weeds, or the road, and by then it’s too late anyway (again … see picture of me covered in red-, yellow-, blue-, green-sized viral droplets), or start wearing a mask? Forget the mask — that thing makes for labored breathing in an air conditioned room – much less in humid 89F temps while running (yep, that’s ~32C for my metric friends – it’s getting hot round here already).
Today I abandoned the bayou trail after a few hundred yards and returned to the neighborhood streets. I found running in the middle of the road was really the best way to avoid the slipstream. Cars don’t sneak up on you and they just spew out exhaust fumes – I can handle that, my lungs are used to it.
Oh wait … the mayor is announcing on the radio right now that “County and City Parks will be closing at midnight tonight for the Easter Weekend”.
Maybe I’ll be running in place in the garage tomorrow, or doing laps around our postage-stamp sized garden?