Here’s a piece of unexpected good news for the running industry amidst an unprecedented business and personal shutdown: None other than the Sunday New York Times, in a March 22 article and photo essay on the front page of its Sports section, says that “as the coronavirus brings life to a near-standstill, people are discovering, or rediscovering, one of the most basic exercises: running.”
Calling it “a built-in form of social distancing,” the Times writes that while the racing world, like the rest of the world, is on hold, “you wouldn’t know it by looking at public parks, streets and trails across the United States,” where running, along with walking, is by far the exercise of choice for people shut out of gyms and health clubs and with no sports to watch live or on television.
And in what can only be described as music to the ears of retailers and vendors as hard hit as every other business, the Times proclaims: “A running boom is taking off.”
And this headline: “All You Need: Shoes, and Some Space.”
Accompanied by photos showing runners in various places through New York City and Washington, D.C. – under the Brooklyn Bridge and jogging a path near the U.S. Capitol. – the article labels running as “the perfect sport for a pandemic.”
Here’s a description of an afternoon scene in New York by author Talya Minsberg:
“Cabin fever is driving out the masses. Kids on scooters are chasing their huffing and puffing parents, some of whom have coaxed their own children to run, with mixed enthusiasm. Teenagers on bicycles are barking at their parents to catch up, like an elite coach prepping an Olympic hopeful.
“There are runners in jeans and runners in expensive ‘athleisure’ kits that look like they have never seen sweat. There are people wearing classic Converse and Nike Vaporflys and every shoe in between. There are families pulling each other with games of “first one to the light post wins” and friends running with an awkward amount of space between each other.”
The newest runners are easy to spot, the article continues, “falling into one of three camps: overexcited, overstriding or overly dramatic about the hill up ahead. But a transformation comes quickly. A few blocks later and it’s easy to see the release on the faces of runners who have found their new outlet.”
It is the community of runners that is so familiar to the run specialty business, along with the do-it-yourself nature of lacing on a pair of sneakers and hitting the track, road, trail or sidewalk, that is attracting a nation being told to stay six feet from other individuals and to self-isolate to help flatten the curve of coronavirus spread.
So who knew, along with all of the research and heroic work of the medical community, the running retailers are helping the cause in this national emergency by doing what they do – urging people to get out and run?
Or, as the Times piece concludes, “Run in any country, in any park, at any time, spot another runner, and chances are you’ll greet each other with the slightest nod. You’re out here too. In this time, as more and more people hit their parks, streets and trails, make sure to nod at your fellow runner.
“We’re all still out here.”