When my family and I moved 30 miles south from Seattle to Tacoma in December 2018, my daily running routine was one of the many things we left behind.
In Seattle, I had been running in the early morning (usually about 3 miles) before showering, dressing, and bussing to work. But after moving to Tacoma, my morning commute became considerably longer, and the time needed to run was sacrificed to the Sounder Train.
So, without the daily opportunity to get outside and use my legs, my need for cardio was relegated to weekends and/or the occasional evening. Not ideal, but reasonable under the circumstances. And that’s how life was for more than the last year, minimal running and maximum commuting.
And then the Coronavirus changed everyday life as we knew it.
Like everyone, there have been countless activities my family and I have had to stop doing (attending school, etc.) or start doing (wearing facemasks etc.), to help stop the spread of this brutal virus.
We have all been challenged by the quarantine in different ways, some far more dramatically than others, but one silver lining we can probably all agree on is the unexpected abundance of time. For those who had home projects to complete, yard work to get after, or creative hobbies to take up, this has been the chance you had been waiting, nay hoping, for.
While the most meaningful use of all this new time has been spending time with my kids, the most personally-satisfying has been running again.
Since the quarantine began, I’ve been fortunate to get out of the house almost every day to run. I don’t go very far—5 miles max, but snaking my way through nearby neighborhoods has opened my eyes to the wonderful and previously unseen variety of beautiful streets, houses, and views right in my own backyard.
Additionally, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking my daughters if one of them would like to join me for a ride in our running stroller. So, most days you’ll see me running down the sidewalk pushing a stroller and trying to maintain an out-of-breath conversation about whatever is visible at any given moment.
“Yes honey… *breath* That, is… *breath* a doggie. *breath* Say hi to the doggie! *breath, breath, breath*”
However, I sometimes get to run by myself, and it’s an incredible joy. I can just pop in my headphones, zone out to a podcast, and ride the oscillating rollercoaster of feeling light & swift at moments and then heavy and sluggish at others. The peaks and valleys are mostly determined by how engaging my podcast is or how hydrated I am at the time.
But it’s not all roses and rainbows.
The physical toll on my knees of running every day is no joke. Even finally buying new running shoes, which was long overdue, can’t fully offset the realities of aging joints running on concrete. I suppose I could run on other surfaces, but with every park and trail locked down, I’m doing my best with what’s available.
And the weather in Tacoma has been uncharacteristically nice of late, which makes running easier and more enjoyable. But the occasional rainy day does dampen my enthusiasm to head outside. In fact, it’s raining pretty good today, which inspired me to give my knees a much-needed rest.
And on the pandemic front, I run without a mask. But doing so creates the occasional “passing” situation that makes me wonder about the odds of an airborne transmission in that perfect (from the virus’s perspective) moment of crossing paths. I’ve researched it a bit and running/working out without a mask is fine, as long as you stress social distancing. So, when I encounter someone on my route, I try to take as wide a path as I can until they’re behind me.
But other than my knees feeling ancient, stressing about crowded intersections, and being winded from saying hello to all the dogs, cats, birds, and busses we see, I’d say the running is going great. I’ve shed a few pounds and have noticed significant improvement in my stamina since starting way back when the quarantine began.
When the strictest aspects of the lockdown have been lifted and my regular work routine resumes, I’ll have to make a tough decision. Either get up ultra-early to run before the long commute or hang up my running shoes from Monday to Friday.
Or, just maybe, this will be enough incentive to become one of those lunch-break runners you sometimes see navigating the downtown sidewalks, swiftly darting past people carrying takeout back to the office or getting a mid-day jolt of caffeine.
I don’t know which way I’ll go yet, mostly because I don’t have to make that decision.
There’s still plenty of time before aspects of our previous life get slowly switched back on. And even when they do, don’t be surprised if it’s a “two steps forward, one step back” situation. I certainly hope we don’t return to a full quarantine again, but it only takes a few groups of idiots hanging out together too soon—before the science tells us we’re in the clear—to force us all back indoors.
The only thing I know for sure is that until I have to sacrifice my time once again to the commuter gods, I’ll be running every day on the streets of Tacoma and loving every mile of it.