Back before the coronavirus pandemic took hold and the UK went into lockdown, we shared an article on planning your own race if yours had been cancelled. At the time, this feature offered up a slice of positivity in difficult times, yet three weeks later, the advice has changed and the situation has worsened. This is why you’re now reading why you shouldn’t be heading out and running a marathon distance at the moment:
It breaks Government rules
At the time of writing this, the UK Government rules state that runners can go out once a day to exercise as a means to look after their mental and physical wellbeing. While there are no set time or distance limits in place, the guidelines state runners should only run locally, using open spaces near to their home. At all times runners should be a two metre distance from other people, and only run with members of their household.
While the new advice does not explicitly define what is meant by ‘local’, or for how long runners should be running, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove added on Sunday 29 March, "I would have thought for most people a walk of up to an hour, a run of 30 minutes or a cycle ride of between that, depending on their level of fitness, is appropriate." With the average marathon time in the UK being 4:37:09, having a large number of people venturing out for extended periods of time, most likely on the same ‘race day’, this would contravene all advice and common sense, most likely having a considerable impact on the spread of the virus.
While the Government hasn't explicitly said ‘don’t go out and run a marathon’, during a time where the impetus is on staying home to limit the spread of coronavirus and pressures on the NHS, it seems irresponsible.
It could compromise your immune system, and put you more at risk
According to a study published in the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) in 2016, following continuous long-effort exercise, such as marathons, your immune system can be suppressed for as long as 72 hours. Exercise psychologist David Nieman has been studying the links between exercise and immunity for 40 years and has found that intermittent running is better for your immune system. Interestingly, even 10 minutes hard running, followed by 10 minutes of easy running was found to be easier on the immune system than, say, a long marathon-paced session. “When you do a back-and-forth kind of running, your body seems to react in a favourable way, like you’ve just been out for a walk”, notes Nieman.
While regular running is definitely still being recommended, running a marathon during the coronavirus pandemic could momentarily compromise your immune system, putting you more at risk of catching or spreading the virus.
If you want to run the distance, it’s probably safer to get creative
Many runners have still embraced the idea of running a marathon without leaving their homes. This runner recently live-streamed his marathon attempt from his back garden, a man who is quarantined in France spent six hours and 48 minutes doing laps of his balcony to complete the marathon distance and this runner in China ran 318 miles in his living room.
If you’re lucky enough to have a treadmill in your flat and are set on running a marathon, or want to try and run one in your living room, that’s your call, but now is not a time to be spending hours running outside.
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