Fitness

Running is fitness routine of choice

Amateur Safford does a marathon in his driveway, one of many going solo or online

American ultramarathon competitor Dean Karnazes running a virtual 5K race in Ross, California. Karnazes, who has done endurance races all over the world, is participating in different types of virtual races to stay fit during the coronavirus pandemic
American ultramarathon competitor Dean Karnazes running a virtual 5K race in Ross, California. Karnazes, who has done endurance races all over the world, is participating in different types of virtual races to stay fit during the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • It is not that amateur runner Forrester Safford ever planned on running an entire marathon by himself in his four-car driveway.

But this month, rather like George Mallory sizing up Mount Everest, he decided to do it simply because the chance was there.

"It was totally on a whim, just to see if I could," said the Virginia resident.

With a mix of high-and low-tech approaches, running is quickly emerging as the fitness routine of choice amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, which has shuttered gyms and forced the suspension of sports across America.

For Safford, this new normal meant lacing up his sneakers at 2am and completing 42.195km in loops and figure-eights outside his house with a cooler of water, energy bars and Red Bull by his side.

"I figured I'd give it a mile and see what happened." he said.

"After a mile, I was like, 'I can do it, so let's just try'."

The accomplishment, documented in a map that tracked his Global Positioning System movements, went viral on Twitter with some 125,000 likes, with many on social media speculating that he had lost his faculties.

"My sister-in-law was hitting me up, like, 'Hey... people are saying you're nuts and stuff like that'. You know, it's fine, I'm not," the 38-year-old said.

With communal sports on hold for the near future, Safford is one of many going either solo or online.

"As long as you've got the right shoes, it's one of the easiest ways to just get out of your house and go get some exercise," said Ajee Wilson, the 800m bronze medallist at last year's World Championships in Doha, Qatar. She also competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

ACTING ON A WHIM

I figured I'd give it a mile and see what happened. After a mile, I was like, 'I can do it, so let's just try'.

FORRESTER SAFFORD , amateur runner, on his unplanned marathon.

She is part of a group of current or aspiring Olympians leading no-cost digital workouts for children in Manhattan, New York through Armory Track's City Track and Little Feet programmes.

The 25-year-old, who was gearing up for the US Olympic Trials before the postponement of the Tokyo Games, jumped at the chance to lead an online class.

"It's super important to try to be active and try to have things to take your mind off the fact that we're all kind of in the same boat, quarantined inside," she said.

Other athletes participating include Olympic sprinter Natasha Hastings and shot putter Joe Kovacs, who won silver in Rio and gold in Doha.

With its in-person races on hold through June 30, New York Road Runners (NYRR) has launched a virtual 5K race.

It has generated a friendly online rivalry between 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden and top woman distance runner Stephanie Bruce, who are both competing.

"(Now) it's more important than ever to keep in touch with family, friends, and fellow runners," said Michael Capiraso, NYRR president and chief executive officer.

For marathon man Safford, virtual events and off-the-cuff runs are affirmations of what can be accomplished in trying times.

"We have to get this over with," he said. "I can run a marathon in my driveway, I figure people can find other stuff to do too at their house."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 26, 2020, with the headline 'Running is fitness routine of choice'. Subscribe