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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Covid Joggers: An Essential Guide To Etiquette

I’m training for the Women’s Mini Marathon. I say training, I have bought a very expensive pair of Brookes running shoes that have yet to be worn for anything but vigorous walks. They gave me blisters the first day I used them, which provided me with ample excuse to put off the training for another week. That was six weeks ago.

MS Ireland assigned me to write a blog on the Women’s Mini Marathon, which given my proclivity to moan about pandemic runners, was ironic. School bleep ‘fitness’ tests and the looming terror of loathed PE teachers still permeate my nightmares. But I figured I couldn’t really write about running 10km if I had no prior experience in doing so. I did walk a marathon (42km) for Oxfam with some friends in 2016. We hadn't really prepared and my friend summed it up well when by km 30 she said she was having 'black thoughts'. The last time I ran an actual race was the 5km ‘Le Marmite’ in Geneva and I came fifth last out of hundreds of people. Again, I hadn’t trained and was going through the lazy 21-year-old stage of drinking excessively and pretending to study. But still, pretty abysmal result and it doesn’t look like this time is going much better so far. I am apprehensive about embarking on this for two reasons. One, I am not and never will be an athlete. I think my height has somewhat predetermined this course in life for me. Two, other people.

Part of this pandemic experience is learning that some people are fairly inconsiderate a lot of the time. If I am to take this running gig seriously, I am going to have to run at obscure hours during the day. Evening time is witching hour for Covid joggers. As soon as the clock chimes five, the sweaty, droplet expelling pandemic athletes come out in their droves. This is fine except amongst them in large numbers are those special individuals who side swipe your arm as they brush past after breathing down your neck like a leaf blower.

This particular breed of fitness enthusiasts are the ones who make no attempt to move whilst ploughing through you at high speed like a HGV hurtling down a hill. Thus, giving you less than a millisecond to choose between being knocked down or jumping onto the road into incoming traffic. Thankfully there isn’t too much of the latter at the moment. I especially love when two people are running together. You get to experience the assault from both sides.

My friend who was an avid jogger even pre-Covid, told me that this argument is largely unfair. She maintains that the groups of people walking on pavements are, for the most part, worse. I see her point and I don’t like them either. You know, those cheery folk who stride together in pairs, or groups of three and four, refusing to form a single file when you pass them. I’m fairly sure this was considered rude pre-Covid. It is now, pandemically speaking, totally unacceptable walking etiquette. However, unlike joggers, they aren’t coming at me at speed or exhaling gargantuan breaths into the ether. I at least have time to dart off the path.

In many countries in Europe, like Spain, you can’t run without a mask. Even the Cleveland Clinic says runners should wear a mask in busy spaces. Since we are in Dublin and we can’t really go anywhere else, everywhere is a busy space. The Cleveland Clinic also says to ‘be mindful about crossing the street to avoid getting too close or give the other person at least six feet when passing.’ There are even tips on which masks to wear when working out. For the naysayers, although wearing a mask will impede your airflow it WON’T restrict your oxygen levels but obviously it’s not the most pleasant. Yesterday evening a couple ran past me and lifted up their snood to cover their mouths. The simple snood. What a fantastic alternative to exhaling all over me! I nearly ran after this considerate pair to hug them.

Obviously, it depends on the time of day and of course working hours make choosing your running schedule difficult. However, it does sometimes feel as if runners have an alert out on the busiest time to congregate so they can don their boots and bulldoze through crowds for the craic, leaving the rest of us catapulted left and right in their wake. Sure, what else would you be doing of an evening?

In my Covid misanthropy, I realise I am very much in danger of becoming Victor Meldrew, a curtain twitching recluse. A tiny rage machine walking down the street muttering expletives under my breath at people being healthy. But since one of the only things I enjoy these days is exercising outdoors, to (my future fellow) Covid joggers it would help ‘spark joy’ if you could please:

Option A) Move off the footpath instead of running into me or creeping up behind me;

Option B) Run around me instead of through me or (my favourite option);

Option C) Wear a snood as you run past me.

I have reluctantly downloaded the couch to 5K app but I still haven’t quite made it past the couch part and am fast running out of excuses. When I eventually do start my Covid jogging journey, feel free to sponsor me when I crawl to the finish line. And absolutely ask me was I wearing a snood.


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