Collin Allin and his wife Hilda completed a marathon on their Dubai balcony on March 28. (Twitter)

COVID-19 has given running a boost

Several runners have taken the sport to new levels in the time of self-isolation

With gyms closed and team sports verboten because of physical distancing rules in the face of COVID-19, the sport of running has experienced what The New York Times called a “boom” because it is the “perfect sport for a pandemic” that requires nothing more than “a pair of shoes and a six-foot buffer” from the next person.

But depending on the location, even running, a solitary pursuit by any measure, has become a challenge, with some runners taking some unusual steps to get their fix in.

As Running World reports, 27-year-old Sam Hustler was about to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon when COVID-19 cancelled it. In self-isolation but undeterred and unwilling to let his training go to waste, Hustler ran the race on his three-metre large balcony, completing 5,500 laps in three hours and 42 minutes on the scheduled date of the race.

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Five days earlier, 32-year-old French runner Elisha Nochomovitz ran a full marathon on his balcony, completing it in six hours and 48 minutes. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, France has severely limited the movement of its citizens. While they can go outside for exercise in “individual sports,” they must have a special permission form.

“I needed to assure myself that I could still run 40 kilometres whatever the condition,” he told media. His girlfriend helped him along the ‘course’ by handing him drinks and snacks. Ultimately, Nochomovitz saw his race as an opportunity to “extend my support to the entire medical personnel who are doing an exceptional job,” he said.

A South African couple meanwhile showed that this type of balcony marathon does not need to be the sole domain of, well, singular figures.

Collin Allin and his wife Hilda ran their balcony marathon together, in Dubai of all places, completing 2,100 laps in five hours, nine minutes and 39 seconds, on March 28.

After live-streaming their run, the couple has promised to stage a more global race for others like them stuck inside.

This said, running has suffered a (likely temporary) loss of reputation in Italy, one of the global hotspots of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the entire country remains in lockdown, Italians are required to stay indoors unless their travel is deemed essential for things like work, medical reasons or emergencies. Running, obviously, does not fit into any of those categories. And yet, people are defying these rules, much to chagrin of officials, with some mayors personally threatening offenders with harsh measures. Runners in particular drew the ire of Gianfilippo Bancheri, the mayor of Delia in Sicily.

“In this town, there are about 20 runners,” he said. “Now, you are all marathon runners.”

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