Keeping our Distance – Virtual Races can Fill a Void


We all want life to get back to normal. Unfortunately we are probably a long way off from getting back to normal. Until then, we all should do what we can to be responsible, and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. There is a lot we don’t know about the virus. It does seem clear that it is easily spread from person to person. This is evidenced by the examples of spread in nursing homes and prisons. Given this reality, at the very least, we should be avoiding unnecessary physical contact with people that don’t live with us.

Call Us Irresponsible

On what would be Marathon Monday, the above group of runners went on a group run of 26.2 miles.

Call us irresponsible, but for one morning social distancing was ignored. I needed every single hug today, the first physical contact I’ve had with ANYONE in over a month. 

She received some backlash on Instagram. The poster mused that maybe she shouldn’t have posted the photos. She did not regret running with her friends.

There is a bit of risk we take when we get our groceries, prescriptions, or picking up take out from a local restaurant that we want to support. But going for a group run is an activity that should wait. It is not supporting the local economy. It is a selfish act. Please, act responsibly. Going on a group run with 5 friends, exchanging hugs before going back home is not being responsible.

My friend Brian Davis has been studying and graphing all sorts of COVID-19 data early on. This is not the flu, and deaths are surpassing many other (non contagious) causes of death in The U.S.

Everything is different now. Everyone wants life to go back to how it was just two months ago. We all would love to go to our favorite restaurants, hang out with all of our friends, go for group runs, and participate in actual races. We can’t live like this forever, both as social beings, and as a global and national economy. But, if we just flip the switch too quickly, we risk starting back at square one.

Many (myself included) have been furloughed, or laid off from our jobs. Local businesses will close forever, some races will not survive. Limiting our interactions, and being responsible when we do interact with others will allow us to slowly start to go back to normal.

When we started social distancing there were less than 100 total confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 in The United States. To date, there are 56,000 confirmed deaths in America. Since April 7, the average daily deaths have been over 2,000 per day. We can’t live like this forever, but these #s should make it clear why we can’t flip the switch and stop with social distancing.

Virtual races are one way we can still feel the sense of competition while acting responsibly.

Virtual Races

Virtual races are helping to fill the void. Instead of canceling races, many organizers offered a virtual option. The races already had boxes full of medals and shirts, and the virtual race allowed runners to run the distance, and earn their swag while supporting their local race.

Other races have been setup after the current restrictions were put into place. I closely followed The Quarantine Backyard Ultra. The race followed the format created by Gary Cantrell (a.k.a. Lazarus Lake). Over 2400 runners signed up to run 4.16667 mile loops every hour until they could no longer continue. Michael Wardian was crowned the winner after 63 hours of running.

I have signed up for The Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k. Runners have all summer to complete the (slightly over) 1000 kilometer distance that it takes to run across Tennessee. For those that are especially ambitious, they can chose to run back across the state to complete over 2000k. To date there are over 3750 runners signed up. Gary expected about 100 runners to register. There is also a link for runners to donate to Feeding America/Tennessee. This race is being put on by Gary Cantrell (Laz). As of Sunday afternoon, Laz reported that runners have donated over $22,000. He also expects to donate more funds through the race once all expenses are accounted for. Runners are on the honor system for this race. Everyone gets a tshirt, and finishers get a medal.

For $25, you can participate in a 12 hour virtual race put on by Obstacle Racing Media. They put on their first virtual race on April 18th. The top male and female winners each won over $1000. Their next race is on May 30th. They have yet to announce the prize structure, but promise lots of great prizes.

Marathon Investigation partner 6AM Run is also putting on a virtual event of their own. On June 6th and 7th, they are holding #RunningIsNotCancelled Virtual run. You can choose from a variety of distances, and you can choose a charity to support.

I am in no way being compensated for posting these events and get nothing if you sign up. If you want to support a charity, or your local races, signing up for a virtual race is a great, fun way to do so while maintaining a sense of community and virtual togetherness. However, if there are prizes involved, and someone is suspected of cheating to get a prize, I will not hesitate to investigate.

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  1. A photo says a thousand words so you should really learn your facts and understand the real story behind a photo before you write and publish an article about it.

    • I read the post, and the comments before they were removed. As you said, a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture and text indicated that social distancing was not being observed.

      • You are basing your information off comments posted on a photo? Instead of researching and reaching out to any of those involved? You know, to have an honest story, one that shares the correct facts, and to truly understand the “thousand words” this photo tells. A good journalist would do that. Sounds like fake news to me.

        • The photo was irrefutable evidence that social distancing was not being observed. She wrote about all the ‘hugs’. Please tell me what I wrote that was incorrect? Please tell me what was fake. I did not post her Instagram ID, or link the actual post so that people would not flock to her page.

        • No, he’s basing his information off her own words in her post. He just said that. What’s so hard to understand here?

  2. Interesting read. So glad this group was outside getting fresh air and vitamin D which helps kill COVID. Instead of being in a grocery store, restaurant or inside somewhere. Nobody is saying anything about the groups of cyclists riding around. I am so glad God left you in charge to judge everyone for their actions.

  3. Actually, Karen, the women in the above photo are breaking social distancing rules. That’s obvious when you are supposed to remain 6’ apart but you take a photo unapologetically hugging. The photo is worth a thousand words, some which were echoed in the caption – irresponsible and selfish. I do have the original photo, and the captions plus all of the comments underneath if you’d like to see them. One is even a healthcare practitioner who should have known better as a PT endangering her patients with potential exposure to COVID-19. The others have children they go home to. Careless is another word for this photo. How about the caption: “What NOT to do in avoiding COVID-19 exposure & infection”? I also thoroughly enjoy the term “COVIDIOTS” being applied here. In fact, the only fake news seems to be coming from you – because social distancing indicates for a physical distance of 6’ and that isn’t seen here at all. This picture says a thousand words all right – one set is “I don’t care if myself or my friends live or die from COVID-19 this hug is worth dying for!” This photo isn’t old, it was taken recently & documented with video evidence on Instagram stories, as well as spurred the original poster to be responded to by her coaching company clearly not condoning these actions of running in groups. Has this been clarified for you or that’s not sufficient?

  4. So someone posts something to Instagram and says “Call us irresponsible”. The article calls them irresponsible, and there’s a problem? Hmmmm. There are plenty of people who aren’t abiding by social distancing guidelines / mandates. This is a difficult time and it’s understandable why people want to connect and not social distance. Not a great idea and probably not helping to flatten the curve, but why on earth shine a light on yourself when you break the rules?

  5. I enjoyed Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column when it was focused on the NFL. However, when it became less about football, and more focused on his political opinions, readers felt alienated and stopped visiting the site. I have enjoyed what has to offer, but the analysis provided in this story is NOT why folks visit the site! The place for CV analysis is Twitter – it is full of CV experts! I hope you’ll stick to writing about race matters.

    • I would love to focus on races. The more we follow the guidelines recommended by the experts the sooner there will be races to analyze.

  6. I entered the Aravaipa Strong 100 mile virtual race and am also entered in the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. I find that, especially the GVRAT, gives me something positive to focus on as well as a future to look forward to. Entering a virtual race connects me to a positive energy group. It is the only time I’ll be able to get “that” t-shirt, or that Aravaipa belt buckle to help me remember what this year was like.

    I learned from watching the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, the final two men battling is out, that we really can get involved with each other even though the race is virtual. There are real aspects which are different from a real race.

    On the other hand, I was entered into a real marathon which got cancelled and was moved to a virtual marathon. I found that running 26 miles by myself was too hard. When I got to 22 miles and my feet hurt, I decided to finish it the next day, which was allowed by race rules, but so stupid.

  7. If a group of healthy people want to go for a run together, so be it. This lock down of the country went to far. People should make there own decisions. People should be concerned, not paranoid about the virus. If you are older, or have other health issues be cautious.

    • If you were keeping up with the news, you’d know “healthy” appearing people can be infected and spread the virus. It’s one thing to break the rules because you’re a weak person, but another to be shameless about it. I keep healthy every day by going on a run by myself, and I don’t see why they can’t do the same.

  8. This past week, our allies in South Korea began easing the social restrictions. Let’s be fair here, they’ve done a huge amount of testing and contact tracing compared to us. They simply have been swifter and more prepared. The citizenry have also been more steadfast in their self-implementation of government directives. In much shorter order than neighboring countries, they’ve been far more successful at tracking the spread and containing the virus. This took planning, but also, the good leadership they now have with President Moon (if Pres. Park was still in office, they’d be a lot like us in NYC). In Seoul, those who have tested positive have had more than adequate hospital care and have been deemed safe to leave once they tested OUT negative.

    Bottom line, there is simply no way to compare our response to theirs, as we haven’t had testing. Without widespread testing, the numbers are useless – no matter how many times they mention them on CNN. Where are our test kits already? I’m writing form Queens NYC, and all we’ve been promised is anti-body tests – which are so far widely inconclusive. I mean, if they are inconclusive, why take the risk of getting one?

    It’s different around the country. I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be to live in an area that has had little impact. That being said, here, they do not know where to put all the dead and are piling up the bodies of my fellow New Yorkers by the thousands in the parking lot of Icahn Stadium (running track) on Randal’s Island. It’s a place I run often, and I’ve had to stop and weep several times at the sight of all those refrigerated trucks.

    Without testing our numbers are all presumptive, even the death numbers.

    You behavior DOES MATTER. You can be spreading the virus and show now symptoms. This past week, S.Korea began easing and a person who was positive, and didn’t know it, went to several night clubs in the Itaewan area of Seoul (yes, they opened up night clubs – omg) and did some serious spreading – unwittingly. Over the course of a few days they conducted 5,000+ Corona tests, tracing all those who came in contact with this one careless person (which is remarkable to say the least). Some of the shocking news they found is, of all the positive cases linked to this person, 30% percent showed now symptoms. 30% – no symptoms.

    So, they have proof of symptom-less spreading.

    What bothers me, an this goes for sports in general (MLB, NHL, NBA, FIFA, the Olympics, and Run Racing) seems to be thinking this year is going to happen. Some sports are different, but road racing, where thousands have their lungs open in close proximity, is reckless. Keeping races on the books, such as NYC Marathon, Chicago Marathon, etc etc is also reckless. There is no way these are going to happen. Holding onto a myth that they will happen is dangerous, because athletes need to train. The training is dangerous for many sports. It’ my opinion, but any and all race directors currently planning for fall racing are being incredibly cavalier with the lives of it’s participants and entirely reckless with the lives of the most vulnerable.

    Do us all a favor. When you run outside, stay further than 6′ if you can. Where a mask when you run. If you can’t breath well, slow down. Don’t run in popular areas. Find some loading docks to run near or run when the weather is disagreeable. There will not be any regular (non-virtual) races anytime soon, so bank on that. You owe it as a healthy person to all the vulnerable. I am striving to be great at this kind of behavior. I consider it my patriotic duty.

    • Not arguing with most of this, but the issue of using masks during running is overkill. Here in British Columbia, the provincial health officer (herself a runner) has pointed out that the likelihood of transmitting or catching the virus from someone passing by is “infinitesimally small.” Avoid close contact and always give others lots of room while running (that’s good advice irrespective of the pandemic), but masks are mostly beneficial for preventing transmission during sustained contact – say, if you’re having a conversation with someone and/or you’re face-to-face for more than just a moment.

      Taking good precautions is smart. Wearing a mask means you need to then wash the mask, so wearing a mask when you don’t need to increases the likelihood that you won’t have a mask when you actually need it.

  9. The bottom line is this: No one gets an A+ in their actions related to COVID-19. Some people do a good job avoiding transmission, others do a less good job.

    The best thing to do is don’t go out of your way to do stupid stuff because the fact is you have no idea if you are contagious or not.

    As far as all the hand wringing about the economy and concern trolling about whether or not the response has gone too far…. knock it off. The economy will be back to normal sooner rather than later. We are all not moving to a farm where we raise our own food, tan our own hides and chop down trees. We will be going to the gym and buying mobile phones and eating at a restaurant very shortly. Until then, chill.

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