Rambling Roads: New Year Thoughts

By George A. Hancock
runnergah@comcast.net

January 2021 begins on a Friday. One wonders after all the tumultuous events in 2020 whether that start date is apropos. It’s interesting. We begin the New Year at the end of the work week. In the old days, this meant a weekend holiday celebration. Now with the COVID-19 virus still running rampant one wonders if any celebrations are appropriate.

I reside in the Cambria County section of the Laurel Highlands in Pennsylvania. As of this writing Cambria County is experiencing a ghastly death toll. There were 50 deaths in a six-day period recently. The county coroner’s office and most local funeral homes are overwhelmed. I just can’t imagine calling a local funeral home after losing a loved one and hearing: The only thing we can do is put you on a waiting list. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. That is a surreal situation.

I begin 2021 running just like I did back in 1973. 2021 is my 48th year as a road runner. I’m approaching 106,000 career miles. I should reach that number before spring begins.

My road-racing days are behind me thanks to several herniated discs. I do run every day. I’m one of those streak runners with several lengthy running streaks on my resume.

I’ve learned that streak running is not for everyone. Many runners need the downtime for rest and rehab. Serious or even casual racers need rest. Racing at any level is arduous. Sure, racing is fun and a great way to meet other folks with the same interest. But, I also learned that one can run every day for numerous other reasons including physical fitness, mental well-being, and simply checking out the roadside sights. That view is incredible.

Daily running is a great hedge against our deadly virus. Getting outside and running in various weather events helps strengthen one’s immune system. The fresh air, the sunshine, and yes, even the winter weather helps one stay healthy and navigate through these troubling days. An active lifestyle featuring a balanced diet and smart nutrition works wonders.

We saw this point work during our past summer months. The virus weakened as many worked and played outside in a safe responsible manner. However, once the cooler weather arrived and folks migrated back inside the virus resumed its relentless scourge. 

Education is always a sound investment. Runners, especially veteran runners, learn to study and perhaps adopt the latest running information. A wise runner studies the new running techniques and clothing trends. The old tried and true running process can be improved with the latest information.

Similarly, our lives are enhanced by reading or reviewing past actions. The closest historical event to our current COVID-19 dilemma was the 1918 Spanish Flu. There are several great books detailing that tragedy.

John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History published in 2004 is a tremendous resource. Barry’s book details that deadly flu that killed 50 million souls. Barry’s book is one of the best histories of this deadly flu outbreak.

Another great book is Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It by Gina Kolata. This 1999 book is a detailed overview of the deadly 1918 flu event.

Dr. Jeremy Brown’s 2019 book Influenza: The Hundred-Year Hunt to Cure The Deadliest Disease In History is also another great source on this topic. Brown examines the 1918 flu epidemic while discussing the government’s role in pandemics and current controversies with vaccines.

Education is a vital key during weather emergencies and pandemic situations. Reading and gaining knowledge is important in every endeavor. Runners realize this point.

Sadly, it looks like the Covid-19 crisis will touch the first half of 2021 and perhaps beyond. So, creating a “normal” routine is vital. Running is a great start.

Of course, continuing our daily run is the preferred course for most runners. Sure, adaptations will occur as events warrant. But we can continue running in a safe and healthy manner. Running is a stress reliever. Running even without racing creates a powerful aura. Plus, running provides a superb roadside view.

2021 has arrived. We run on, seeking any semblance of a normal life. The challenge is great. The task is formidable. But, it is a doable goal.

Run smart, run safe. Happy New Year All!

The closest parallel to today’s pandemic.


Categories: Features

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