Running in the days of the corona virus

By Maria Polyzou


A few days prior to the Tokyo marathon, it was announced that only the Elite runners and athletes in special wheelchairs would be taking part.  Since then, we have witnessed throughout Europe, the cancellations and postponements of major marathons like those of: Paris, Barcelona and Rome. The domino of cancellations and postponements is ongoing. 


Meanwhile, we are still waiting to hear about what is to happen to the two major marathons to take place in spring; the London and Boston marathons which have over 40.000 runners participating. 


Ever since the corona virus visited our country and is slowly but surely spreading, the State has taken some measures to protect its citizens.  While runners were so looking forward to taking part in the race in spring, now they hear the organizers announcing postponements and cancellations thereof. 


Even before the announcement of the special measures the government was taking, the Nafplion marathon was postponed to May and when the postponement of the greatest spring event – the Athens Half Marathon – was announced, all other organizers followed suit. 


I shall first refer to those marathon champions who during this period, seek to achieve their best time so as to participate in the Olympic Games of Tokyo.  I believe that during such times and developments, the IOC and the ΗOC (International Olympics Committee and the Hellenic Olympics Committee) will have to make some new decisions regarding the participation of marathon champions at the Olympics Marathon and change the limit for participation and qualification. 


However, I need to address all athletes and runners who are stressed and anxious due to the recent developments.


It is certain that all runners have trained hard, many times, and for a very long time, covering great distances in order to achieve their best physical condition for the day which was scheduled for him/her to take part in the event – goal and to achieve his/her best personal performance.    Now, they see that all events are pushed forward again and again without anyone being able to say with certainty when the green light will be given for the organization of such sports events.  I know for sure that many runners feel disheartened and greatly disappointed. 


There are surely two ways to manage this.  You can either throw in the towel, give up and go home or you can double your training and prepare to return stronger than ever before, having even greater will and decisiveness to succeed. 


What is important for now, is to stand by the organizers and not be against them.  We need to understand that the decision - to postpone or cancel an athletic event which thousands of people had signed up for - was not an easy one to make. 


The State and the organizers are forced to make such decisions in order to put a stop to this spreading of the virus and to make sure that no lives are endangered since we all have people in our environment who are more vulnerable to the disease. 


We need to understand that it was absolutely necessary for an event to be cancelled or postponed, despite the organizers wishing for the opposite.  They are made to make such decisions so as not to put our health in any danger.  Just like athletes work hard, preparing for an event over a very long time, so do the organizers, in order to succeed in putting together the whole event with thousands of people working hard to achieve just that.  I assure you that they too are deeply disappointed to see all their hard work going up in smoke … in danger of it all being lost.


Consequently, nobody wishes for postponements and cancellations.  We all, however, wish to protect the public’s health and ours too. 


I now stand in your shoes – those of each runner – as you all very well know -  for over 40 years, I have passionately loved running and races.  I am fully aware of what it’s like to miss an event or race for any number of reasons.  But I belong to that group of people who never and for no reason stops running in open spaces, roads, parks, stadiums …  In this way I enjoy all the benefits that running offers us and these are many: 

  1. Exercise helps in maintaining our body weight.
  2. Exercise enhances good health and fights diseases.
  3. I have fun as I run!
  4. Running improves our mental state.
  5. Exercise increases our energy levels.  We feel as if we’re flying!
  6. Exercise helps in a better sleep.


I could write so much more regarding the many benefits of running!


Returning to our topic – running in the days of the corona virus – I want to say that I have received so many messages from runners these past few days.  Messages of disappointment and anxiety regarding their race-goal which they had set to achieve and is now either postponed or cancelled.  “What a waste!”  “I have wasted so much time and all for nothing!”, “All those kilometres and sacrifices … all gone down the drain,” and so many more messages like these.   


Let me tell you then, that none of these kilometres have gone to waste!  Kilometres are something like a savings account we have at the bank … we will withdraw them when we need them and we’ll run harder and faster than ever before.  Why?  Well, because we will get them all back with an interest too!!!


So, we carry on our training.


What we should do as far as training is concerned now:

  1. I would say that you need to decrease your mileage by half.  You need to know that you cannot or should not run too long a distance for too long a period.  Your muscles will tire and so will your organism as a whole. We should follow the rules of gradual training and periodicity, there is a period when we run many kilometres and then another when we reduce them so that we reach our peak at a race.  This cannot go on for too long a period.
  2. You can increase your intensity covering small distances when training so as to allow your body to improve on your speed.  You will benefit from this in the long run. 
  3. Give more emphasis to stretches and also work on strengthening exercises. 
  4. Reduce your training sessions every weekly cycle so that there is time to rest and enjoy other things which you had been deprived of during that period. 
  5. If, despite all this, you are still upset, talk to your coach about taking a personal test of a distance and have your own personal watch record the result you have so long wanted to achieve.   It goes without saying that I do not recommend that you go out and run a marathon, but smaller distances of 5 and 10 km or even a half marathon if you really want it so much. 
  6. As regards our health, it is not to be neglected.  We should follow the advice given on a daily basis and protect ourselves in the best possible way.  We follow a healthy diet, we increase our vitamin intake which enhances our immune system.
  7. Lastly, do not allow the cancellation or postponement of any race dampen your spirits and your will to run.  Go out and run!  Enjoy it without the pressure of a timer …


Just think about it … I run because I love running … I love my company as I run … I love myself and offer it the best I can. 


That great mood we get into after a nice and enjoyable run and the big smile we have on our face, is without a doubt the best protection against the virus!!!


So, hang in there until our next race … We continue to run!


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