I have been fortunate to form special relationships with several of my runners, who share not just their goals, but their fears and struggles. Not just with running, but in other areas of their lives. Currently, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing and many living in panic and fear, I have heard from a few of my runners, their fears and frankly, lack of motivation as a domino effect.
With my 22-years of experience as a full time registered dental hygienist, understanding of the biomedical model vs biopsychosocial model of health and motivational factors, I feel like I am viewing things through a different set of lenses.
The running community has had race after race cancelled, as well as their beloved running group sessions cancelled and rightfully so for the love of humanity. As the cases of COVID-19 increase in our communities and more restrictions are placed on us, more fear has spiked. As time ticks on and the weeks away from our running friends turns into months, depression is growing, and the lack of motivation sets in. Some are losing their identity, because their identity was so deeply rooted in that Saturday morning running group. Now, research has been conducted suggesting running 6-ft away from others may not be enough because expelled droplets from the mouth spread out and suspend in the air. With this “new” information, I have seen more fear with many of my runners.
News flash, this “new” information is not new! For those of you that run with groups or have run in races, have you ever accidentally run through someone’s snot rocket? Have you ever been running next to or behind a hyper sweater and their sweat lands on you? Have you ever been running through an aid station and a runner in front of you cannot drink and run at the same time and cough up their fluid, just steps in front of you? Were you grossed out? Did it occur to you that you may have been exposed to a virus or some other pathogen?
Who remembers at the 2011 Las Vegas Rock and Roll marathon, 1,000 runners became ill, with half of them violently ill from what they thought was contaminated water at the aid stations? Officials claimed the water that was taken from fire hydrants to fill trash bag lined trash cans to serve the runners, was not contaminated. The Southern Nevada Health District released a report a couple weeks after the 2011 race with this statement, “While our initial testing has been unable to identify the pathogen, our initial analysis of the survey data indicates that the outbreak is most likely infectious in nature”. What does that mean? It means they don’t know if it was a bacteria, a virus, or what microorganism for that matter, but it was clear that whatever it was, it was something infectious, which means it passes through people or the environment (droplets). Did this occurrence stop the race from happening the subsequent 8-years or any of the Rock and Roll races throughout the world or really any race for that matter? Considering that races all over the world sell out, this seemed to have very little impact on the running community.
A race for the COVID-19 vaccine is on. This my friends, is the biomedical model of health. Let’s all take a medication and we will be fine. I know vaccinations don’t work that way, but I am delivering a very simple example of what the biomedical model of health means. In my years as a dental hygienist I have had 100s of patients tell me, “I’m healthy” as I look at their medical history and they have checked yes for; diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and they are taking five medications to treat their non-communicable diseases.
The biopsychosocial model of health takes into consideration the influence of the biological, psychological, and social aspects of a person’s life on their overall health, behaviors, expectations, and experiences. You better believe the social interaction of running impacts your overall health and the lack of it brings on detrimental consequences. You better believe lack of running/exercise will compound your quarantine blues and pack on the pounds, again impacting overall health. You better believe you need to find ways to get your butt moving. Now is not the time to be depressed and unmotivated to move your body out of fear or depression.
My biggest fear for my runners, the people I have a great deal of love for, is that this COVID-19 pandemic will scare them into NOT living their lives in the future. We already know once we (humanity) beat this thing, life as we knew it will not be the same. But please don’t fear running with friends, running in groups, or running in races in the future because you may be exposed to some pathogen. The potential for exposure to pathogens has ALWAYS been there. We cheat death every day when you don’t even think about it. Not to mention, we are all just here on borrowed time anyway. Once we all make it out of quarantine, let’s live life cautiously and purposefully as we move into a new normal, but for crying out loud, live it! Sign up for that race you always wanted to run and train with Run With Gina (Rwg).