Covid 19, The City of London & Jogging

The City of London has scaled back its public activities due to Covid 19, although its streets remain busy with both traffic and pedestrians. Although most finance industry offices appear closed, there are plenty of workmen roaming around, and also residents. In the media right now there’s little mention of the City’s politicians, although it was noted that the last public event Prince Charles attended before announcing he was infected with Covid 19 was at the Mansion House with Lord Mayor of London William Russell. One of the more noticeable things in the City right now is a bad tempered exchange about running on the Barbican Talk site, which reflects attitudes on the street and in this case also the Barbican podium and highwalk.

25 March 2020

barbie 1: On my short walk from Mountjoy to Andrewes just now, I encountered five separate runners – all of whom were huffing and puffing very robustly as they ran past me. Now that we know that droplets can hang in the air for at least half an hour, could I ask resident runners to consider whether you really need to use the Podium as a running track now that you have the entire people and pollution-free City at your disposal?…

barbieofthebarbican 2: I think it is a bit ridiculous and selfish to ask people who live on the estate and have rights to use it as much as everyone else to not run on the podium. I run every day but as I run past people I am more than two metres away and I turn my head the other way. The podium is extensive and there is lots of space for everyone….

barbicanwren: You may keep 2 metres away but the sweat that comes off you will linger in the air a bit longer. Same if someone coughs in your direction whilst you run past them….

Squiffy: Have you ever seen someone having a smoke and observing just how far one lungful of air can travel? 2 meters?

barbie 1: Well, this is shocking in the current climate. How rude, selfish and downright nasty some of you are. Perhaps when you are frail, elderly, sick or scared someone will respond to you with the same lack of compassion. You talk of privilege and yet are oblivious to your own over inflated sense of entitlement. Just dreadful…

type21: It might be an idea for all of us to calm down a little and perhaps have a civilised conversation about this. Let me start, if I may: I do understand the problem raised by barbie. I also think it unreasonable however to ask people not to use the car-free expanses of the podium to take their daily form of exercise in the form of running. This is part of what the podium is built for. I have also seen, so far, most runners behave very reasonably: keeping distance from those around them, slowing down around corners, often making an effort not to breathe too… explosively when near others. In addition, it is very difficult to catch Coronavirus merely from a few droplets of air expelled from the lungs – compared to, say, a cough, which releases exponentially more such particles – and impossible to catch it from sweat…

26 March 2020

Ted Bolt: The closure of gyms and abundant free time has led to an influx of instagrammable gym bunnies and not so instagrammable alpha males (descriptions apply to people of all genders and none) who clearly can’t run. Running doesn’t involve huffing and puffing and certainly not sweating at this time of year. Running is an amazing gift and endorphins are the healthiest free recreational drug that I know. It has been a pleasure to see neighbours walking and jogging in familial groups or as cohabitees but if you are huffing and puffing or sweating you need to slow down. Once you can do two laps of the Estate at a brisk walk or easy jog (whilst holding a conversation) in less than 30 minutes you really need to leave the estate and progress….

grub street: I’m sad to see how bad tempered this discussion has got. But I think it is useful to remind ourselves about the likelihood of catching the virus on the podium. That is low, as it is on the street, assuming you don’t touch things and then your face. Aerosolized transmission is possible, so you can catch the virus through the air. But in open air situations, rather than very still labs, it is very very unlikely. Both the walker and the runner can infect each other: both are breathing. Sweat cannot transmit the virus (it has to be respiratory air). Maintain a sensible social distance. So, runners and walkers can both use the podium together safely. And maybe everyone can smile at each other too…

27 March 2020

halibutjackson: As a pack horse (not the brains sadly) delivering food to the self-isolaters, I can say I’ve learned. Fear isn’t rational and it’s not fun. If you are fit enough to run the podium, then I salute you! Just remember its not just about distance or guidelines. It’s about being frightened. Slowing down, putting as much distance as possible. A nod to show you understand. I know running is a momentum thing, but each act of reassurance does something more than fight the virus. It stops another human being feeling fear…

Serious Plea to Runners re Coronavirus discussion on Barbican Talk:

We’ve truncated this thread leaving out some of the harsher comments but nonetheless it’s easy to see from it how scapegoating can take place, especially among those whose knowledge of how diseases spread is at best woolly. While some runners aren’t observing social distancing, the same goes for some pedestrians and dog walkers. Ultimately none of these groups – which en bloc largely are practicing social distancing – are responsible for the pandemic. Likewise, as is pointed out by poster Ted Bolt above, joggers shouldn’t be huffing and puffing. Bolt doesn’t mention that heavy breathing through the mouth makes it harder for the blood to deliver oxygen to the muscles, tissues and organs, because it depletes the blood of carbon dioxide – the amount of which is in the blood determines how much oxygen can be delivered – but this is why it is stupid to huff and puff while running or engaging in any other sport. Every athlete ought to know it is physiologically impossible to increase the oxygen saturation of the blood by huffing and puffing, because the blood is almost always already fully saturated anyway. Breathing as lightly as possible though the nose – to prevent excessive loss of carbon dioxide from the body – helps maximise sports performance.

While fear may explain much of the abuse joggers get – and those involved with this blog have had a fair amount in recent days, although they are not running on the Barbican podium – it would be better if this was replaced by analysis and understanding that emerges from a continuous reforging of the passage between theory and practice. Scapegoating of joggers over Covid 19 has taken place in Italy too and started earlier there. As the literary collective Wu Ming have pointed out this demonisation serves to divert attention from the real culprit for the epidemic: neo-liberalism. And lets not forget the City of London is the leading neo-liberal lobbyist in the world. But back to Wu Ming:

The incredible demonisation of jogging, the moralistic nature of these outbursts which ultimately have nothing to do with health, has been (previously) discussed…. It almost seems that the country’s (Italy’s) problem is not the disastrous overload of the health system, no, the problem is jogging. Those who jog are irresponsible, “do not do their part”, “are provocateurs”, simply for going outside, which “debases the effort” (only “war” is missing) of those who accepted the invitation to stay at home and sing from their windows as loudly as possible….

To blame the overload of the health system directly on jogging would seem a very long step, but with declarations such as that of the President of Emilia-Romagna Stefano Bonaccini, it has already been done…

It should be obvious, but instead it must be pointed out, that those who jog or walk at a safe distance are not responsible for the intensive care crisis in hospitals. Instead, the responsibility for that lies with the same political class of which Bonaccini is the perfect representative. A political class that today blames those who jog, but for thirty years has implemented neoliberal “reforms” and cut wards and beds. On corporatisation, outsourcing, privatisation, regionalisation in a neoliberal key, the consensus was bipartisan. All governments are responsible for it. But if you point this out, if you name the causes and whose responsible, based on the facts, you are told that now is “not the time” to bring it up! That “we will talk about it later!” Everyone needs to understand that in our perennial emergency, there will never be a ‘post’ crisis time in which to discuss these things.

Regardless, we are sure of one thing: stopping people running or walking around would not improve the situation in hospitals, because the two matters are unrelated…

If the public authorities think that their measures do not work, they should look in a mirror for the culprit. The point is this: they botched their response to the virus and… use discriminatory measures. They are incompetent… those responsible for the disaster blame those who jog… It is easy and convenient to point at scapegoats, to strike down, to blame us for their (neo-liberal) errors, both historical and those that are more recent…

Loosely translated from Criminalizzare chi fa jogging e passeggiate: l’ordinanza dell’Emilia-Romagna sotto la lente del giurista by Wu Ming, Giap, 20 March 2020:

It’s time to stop demonising joggers or anyone else and take a hard look at the real issues and real measures needed to deal with the Covid 19 crisis. Given its role as a capstone of neo-liberalism, the reform of the City of London is one of the places we must begin. Lets make sure the world we live in after Covid 19 crisis is over is much better than the one that existed before the current emergency began!


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