Coronavirus: Joggers not social distancing risk becoming hate figures – Alastair Dalton

Joggers are sparking anger on the streets by failing to keep far enough apart from walkers despite 6ft distance advice.

A jogger in happier times before social distancing became a matter of life and death. Picture: Centre Press
A jogger in happier times before social distancing became a matter of life and death. Picture: Centre Press

It’s fewer than two weeks since we were asked to adopt an entirely new way of moving about, and all but one group of people seem to have got the hang of it.

The novel art of social distancing has involved everyone being told to stay 6ft (2m) away from each other while out and about – the distance it’s thought the Covid-19 virus can be transmitted between persons.

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That’s the official Scottish and UK Government line, but scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are reported to have found a cough or sneeze can travel more than four times as far.

I’m not seeking to be alarmist in mentioning that, but it’s something for the one group who are not all correctly social distancing to consider as they pant past you on the street. You guessed it – the joggers.

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Now there are, of course, thoughtless and careless drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, but not all of them are. And the same goes for joggers. But while out on my daily exercise, I’ve found a noticeably high proportion of them are failing to pass people on the pavement any further apart than they normally would, in other words, inches.

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What’s worse is you often can’t see or hear them until they’ve passed uncomfortably by you – no getting some extra steps in by giving pedestrians a wide berth.

Running is a fantastic activity which gives you a real buzz and sense of achievement – that’s after total exhaustion and near collapse, in my case.

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Hi-vis tops and flashing lights

And I know for some runners, it’s a bit of an endurance test as well as a psychological challenge, involving mind over body, “getting in the zone” and plugging in to some motivational music or personal trainer podcast. But some joggers need to alter again their altered state to take account of the new circumstances.

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This would seem an appropriate moment for some members of their throng to get properly socialised, because, alas, what we are now seeing seems to be ingrained habits that have infuriated walkers for years manifesting themselves.

My own experience has generally been a good one, such as seeing evening joggers wearing hi-vis tops or attaching flashing lights to their clothing so as to be seen by those on the pavements and drivers on the roads alike.

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But I hear that when larger numbers of runners and walkers come into close proximity, there is already grief all round.

During a weekly organised running event in a largish park near me in Glasgow, friends warn that you go for a stroll or walk your dog at your peril.

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The park is not closed while hundreds jog around it, and other users are not barred.

But one of them said she was so fed up with joggers pushing past her – “running through” her as she put it – that she bought a bright orange jacket to be more visible and stop being jostled as she took her Saturday morning exercise. This, unfortunately, was to no avail, and the collisions continued. She – and many others, too – now hurry to get through the park before the running menace starts.

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These type of organised runs – and there are many – are now suspended, so participants are likely to be taking to the streets instead, some perhaps with the same mindset.

It threatens to add another tier to the roads hierarchy: drivers, cyclists, joggers, walkers – with the poor pedestrian pushed further into the foot of the scale.

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