What a seismic week this is turning out to be for the running community, which obviously must play its part in the fight to contain and ultimately overcome the Coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday (23 March) we had the historic 'lock-down' speech by Prime Minister Boris Johnson; on Tuesday the quadrennial Olympic Games were postponed for the first time in history and then everyone's favourite Saturday morning pastime – parkrun – was further suspended to the end of April (at least).
The PM recognised the general health and mental health benefits of regular exercise in his speech on Monday and he specifically permitted: “One form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household”. He later added that: “Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed”.
Now athletics is coming to terms with the new reality. At least elite athletes know they are no longer attempting to train in very difficult circumstances for the Tokyo Games. Tokyo 2020 (as it will continue to be known) will be held next year, possibly in July, and this clarity has been universally welcomed throughout the sport.
Five-time Olympian and parkrun fan Jo Pavey, from Exeter, stated: “It is totally the right decision and it is brilliant everyone now knows where they stand. Personally, I will still be trying to qualify for Tokyo as a 47-year-old”. Alluding to the coronavirus epidemic she added: “To be honest, it got to a point a few weeks ago where it became inappropriate to even think about sport while people were sick and losing lives”.
England Athletics has updated its Coronavirus statement this week and extended its ban on all competitions, club activities and coaching until 31 May. The key points are:
“Extending the suspension of all athletics activity in England to 31 May. This suspension includes all organised athletics activity in the UK, including all competitions, formal club activities, running groups, and all Education activity (coach, official, teacher).
“Strengthening our position on coaching activity. We are now mandating that all physical coaching ceases and only be conducted via virtual means during this period. Bringing groups of people together to train, however small, can no longer be permitted under the strict ‘Stay at home’ measures implemented by the UK Government”.
Athletics clubs and running groups the length and breadth of the nation are complying and moving coaching to a new virtual realm, while acting as support hubs for their members. Now it is up to every individual runner to play their part; by adhering to Government and Public Health guidance; running responsibly and keeping safe and well to support the NHS and save lives.
Image of Jo Pavey courtesy parkrun