Neil Featherby: Runners and the public need their space in more ways than one

Runners social distancing on Marriott's Way

Runners out on Marriott’s Way whilst being aware of social distancing. - Credit: Neil Featherby

I recently had a long discussion with someone from the council to determine what we can and can’t do in terms of the services we offer at Sportlink. 

Clearly we still want to offer the advice and equipment runners need and we know how important and beneficial running and exercise is for our bodies and minds, particularly during this time. 

I am one of those people who when it comes to running, prefers to stay away from the crowds and built-up areas these days. I have in the past always ran wherever I feel like running i.e. busy built-up areas to country lanes and off-road tracks and trails. 

Nevertheless, I could not help but notice all the recent talk via social media and in the media with regards to the recent comments made by Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan, in respect of runners refraining from running through busy streets and breathing heavily during the coronavirus pandemic whilst also apparently saying that joggers only run on high streets to show off. 

You could say this has brought about a mixed reaction and divide amongst people. 

I have also been told by several friends during the last month or so that they have been sworn at during their run. 

Two of them were running through Riverside in Norwich, and another along the Fakenham Road, in Taverham, whereas others have told me that they have been shouted at and bluntly told to move over while running along the Marriott’s Way footpath which runners have been using for years. I can personally still remember running along sections where parts of the line were still down, but that really is giving my age away. 

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Going back to Mr Morgan, though, are his comments correct when it comes to potentially spreading germs? 

It is quite clear that he was out to get a reaction which of course he did, but it is also clear that some people really do not like runners coming near them. 

I can take that on board, but I still do not think it warrants some of the abuse which some runners and indeed cyclists have had hurled at them.   

We are all currently feeling the effects and pressure of trying to do everything right to not only safeguard ourselves, but also be aware that we need to take other people into consideration too. 

I have had a good read up on the subject of how the virus can be transmitted through the air during outside activities and I have to say when getting beyond the basics, most of it goes well over my head and in some cases some of the findings seem to lead to contradictions. 

Nevertheless, the rules state that we must stay two metres apart (at least) for which if it means running through busy streets, could lead to difficulties or indeed confrontations, then perhaps it would be best to avoid built-up areas. 

I am also aware that some people have no choice as they run to and from work which could also mean those considered to be front line workers. 

Everyone wants to get out and do their exercise, be it for those who just need some much-needed head space to those of the more serious sporting type. But just right now maybe it’s a time for everyone to perhaps think what the next few steps might possibly lead to. Especially when it comes to avoiding any unnecessary comments which apart from ruining what could have been a nice relaxing run could also potentially ruin the rest of your day. 

I am lucky as apart from just running through my relatively quiet village when heading to the local woods and trails, I very rarely see anyone although that might be more a case of people seeing me and my huskies running towards them before I see them for which they consequently duck for cover. 

For me it will always be a case of keep on running whilst also considering myself so very fortunate that I do have some of the most beautiful and even remote areas on my doorstep.