Throughout the pandemic, I’ve missed the satisfaction and enjoyment of casual pickup games of basketball and soccer, so over the summer, I replaced these activities with running and a bit of golf. At school, running has served as my favorite outlet for physical activity, as well as an opportunity to leave my apartment. It still remains on the list of the few activities we can do under the University’s stricter social distancing requirements. However, part of running on or near Grounds still involves encountering lots of people, so should you wear a mask while running?
Let me start by stating the obvious — running is already a respiratory-intensive activity, so the thought of wearing a mask seems incredibly uncomfortable. As I left to run for the first time around Grounds this semester, I remember thinking, “I never wore a mask while running this summer, so there’s no reason to start now.'' The reason — or perhaps the pressure — to wear a mask quickly became apparent after I received a couple of weird looks and pairs of glaring eyes as people jumped once they saw me.
It was then that I came to the conclusion that I need to wear a mask while running despite how uncomfortable it might be. So on my next run, I wore a mask — of course, it was awful. My mask was irritating and damp from accumulating sweat. It also began to constrict my breathing as I started inhaling the inner liner through my mouth towards the end of the run. I didn’t enjoy running that much before — although I don’t think anyone does — but I find enough value in it to make it a meaningful part of my life. However, this particular running experience was enough to make me question whether it was worth the additional discomfort or not.
After thinking about that experience for a while, I decided that wearing a mask for the entire duration of my runs is not reasonable, because it’s not only exceedingly uncomfortable, but more importantly, it’s not necessary. You should always wear a mask while around others — however, it’s usually not the case that you're always around other people while running. Thus, to improve the experience of running, it’s best to reduce the instances in which you come across other pedestrians.
One way to minimize this is by avoiding areas with high foot traffic, such as the Corner, Jefferson Park Avenue and central Grounds. I’ve found much quieter areas to run via the trails behind O’Hill as well as the surrounding Charlottesville neighborhoods. Charlottesville also has plenty of great running trails, which present easy opportunities to escape some of the inconveniences of running around Grounds — just be careful not to roll an ankle, like I already have. Lastly, there’s still the option to run in the street, but that’s not always feasible with busier and narrower streets.
After using this strategy of social avoidance, I began to gain back some of the enjoyment and value in my runs. Yet, passing through streets with lots of pedestrians is inevitable because of where I live. So, another problem arose because I would have to quickly put my mask on and take it off for short increments. I would remove my mask after passing a line of people and then subsequently rush to put it back on after rounding a corner and seeing another line of people.
The simple and obvious solution to this problem was keeping my mask around my chin instead of carrying it while running through these busier streets, although, doing this for extended periods of time still left my mask soaked with sweat. Another alternative is wearing a headscarf that can rest around your neck and simply be pulled up when passing other pedestrians. For the instances of someone abruptly entering your path, the best you can do is to just momentarily shove the mask around your face until you pass them.
Despite the inconveniences of running during the pandemic, I believe everyone should do it. I’ve found that running is critical to keeping a somewhat sane mindset during this time in my life. It also makes me feel less guilty for all the Cheez-Its I consume. At the moment, the weather is too nice to not spend at least some time outside, and perhaps the falling temperatures may alleviate some of the irritations associated with running with a mask.
Running can function as an escape from the realities of the pandemic, but it’s important to remember that some realities, such as wearing a mask, are still difficult to avoid. So be safe and considerate of others when going outside and enjoy the simple fact that you’re not inside on a Zoom call.
Mario Rosales is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.