Is solitary running and walking at a distance sensible or not?

Only later did the doubts come: should any of that have happened?

I went for a short run first thing yesterday, then the three of us (wife, flown-home daughter and myself) drove out of York to do a shortish walk.

An amount of exercise that allowed for a guilt-free beer or two in the evening, at home instead of at the local bar.

This is not going to be an aggressive manifesto for going outdoors during this health crisis. It’s more a case of puzzling out what’s sensible and what is not.

First item for the (self)-defence: originally the advice seemed to be that exercising outdoors was all right. Boris Johnson even suggested as much during one of his daily announcements.

A quick Google leads me to Runner’s World, a US website chosen because there wasn’t one called Old Puffer’s World.

There, the advice given is that all races and mass events should be cancelled, as mostly they now have been. But solitary running was OK, and according to David Nieman, an American health professor, it is safer to be outside than inside, as when people congregate droplets carrying the virus can be easily passed in a confined space.

“The best plan for running right now is to go out for a solo run and enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

In my plod around the local pavements only a few other runners were encountered. Smiles were exchanged but we all kept our distance.

The walk was in the Howardian hills, retracing steps often trod before. We distanced ourselves from other hikers and saw dog walkers at a long remove. Sandwiches and crisps were eaten on a bench overlooking a valley with Castle Howard in the distance. Back in the car, we drove home without stopping because there was nowhere much to stop.

We’d been shopping in the morning and, if anything, the supermarket seemed riskier as it’s hard to keep six or even three feet apart in a queue. But you do have to buy food. We didn’t stockpile anything, just gathered enough supplies to see us through a strange week.

The newspapers are horrified this morning by all those people who flocked in the sunshine to park or coast; or crammed themselves into London markets.

I wouldn’t wish to do either of those things, as keeping your distance seems sensible. But then sometimes you worry you are part of the problem; is your ‘sensible’ running or walking at a distance just as bad?

“OBEY THE VIRUS RULES – OR ELSE” is the stern headline in the Daily Mail this morning. If such strictures force us to stay at home, we are lucky in having a long garden. Running up and down that will have its limitations, especially if the gardener impedes my stumbling progress, but there you go.

Skipping may also be investigated, not that I know how to skip.

Social media can be a comfort in shut-down days. Here are two tweets I enjoyed. The writer Matt Haig: “I’ve never known so many people simultaneously feeling the need to go for a walk.”

Meanwhile, Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian, points up this letter in his old newspaper…

To keep my rebellious 75-year-old body safe and in line with approved social distancing policies, my wife has devised the mantra “better six feet apart than six feet under”. She won’t put it on social media in case it goes viral.
Graham Jones
Cold Ashby, Northamptonshire.

Ah, a letter that incidentally brings back to mind a favourite American drama series, Six Feet Under.

Leave a Reply