Running crews in Hangang Park and COVID-19By Lim Jang-won
Published : April 23, 2020 - 11:00
Runners were present on the tracks along the Han River on Tuesday despite the strong wind and the coronavirus pandemic. Since spring arrived last week, hundreds of runners have filled Han River Park.
Running crews at the park mostly consist of people in their late 20s to mid-30s who must apply to join, but some crews are open to anyone. Members gather two to three evenings a week to run together, but many running crews took a winter break -- one that was prolonged this year with the spread of the new coronavirus.
Now that fewer new infections are being reported, people who want to get some fresh air, stretch their muscles and socialize with fellow runners are coming back to the Han River to run in groups. “Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have refrained from having offline meetings,” said Lee Nam-sung, the leader of a running crew called Dash the River at Night. “We resumed our activities in mid-March. We stopped publicizing our club and just have small runs with core members. I heard some experts say that running with a small group of people outdoors is OK,” he said.
“The infection numbers are dwindling down, and we reduced the number of people per group from 20 to 10. We ran in two rows before, but now we run in single file with at least a 2-meter distance between members. We are all people who like physical activities outdoors, but we haven’t been able to do any for the past two or three months. The growing frustration was one of the factors in our decision to resume activity,” said Jang Sun-woong, the organizer of running crew GoGoRun.
The individual runners who wore masks were not very concerned about the virus.
“I am constantly moving when I am running, so I am not too worried about the virus. Maybe it’s just my personality. I’m wearing a mask while running outdoors, so I think it’s fine,” said Moon Su-hyeon, a member of running crew Escape.
As for social distancing and wearing masks, some running crews followed the guidelines strictly while others did not. Running crews that required participants to wear masks ran at a slower pace than usual, to accommodate the reduced flow of air.
In other less strict running crews, members took off their masks. Groups of over 20 people could be seen running together in tight packs.
Meanwhile, spring is when running crews tend to attract new members. But with the virus still out there, running crews were wary of accepting new members.
“We have less people than usual now. Only people who ran consistently come out now. This is the time when new members come join, but the virus is having an effect,” said a member of the Seoulflyers running club, a 250-member club with many foreigners. “We didn’t have a break and continued throughout the winter and pandemic situation. We decided to refrain from posting pictures and publicizing our activities,” he said. While one member was quarantined after returning from the US, no one has been infected, he added.
Open running crews, which don’t restrict admission, were more cautious.
Lim So-yeon, who runs the open running crew Runsoda, told The Korea Herald there were no plans to do any running until the danger from the virus was completely over.
“It’s a lot more dangerous for us because we’re completely open, which means we don’t know who is going to join or how many people will join,” said Lim. “We are doing an online run where members certify running individually on Instagram. We did a donation run to aid the victims of coronavirus, which 610 people joined,” added Lim.
By Lim Jang-won (email@example.com)
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