The runner’s dilemma – where to run during a pandemic

Twice now, a local runner has made national news after an altercation with a Covid marshal. The first, Mark Meghezzi was fined for spitting when he was running in Chiswick High Rd. (He said he hadn’t).

The second, Gary Purnell, videoed his exchange with a marshal on the walkway beside the river at Hammersmith after the marshal asked him not to run there. The Council has notices up saying ‘no running, no cycling’ and the Police have joined Hammersmith & Fulham and Hounslow Councils in asking people – all people, not just runners – to stay away from the riverside because of overcrowding.

Mostly, runners would prefer to run where it isn’t crowded, says Rose Lewis of the West 4 Harriers running club, in this guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar.

Image above: West 4 Harriers pre-pandemic

Guest blog by Rose Lewis

Pre March 2020 – remember that? As a runner, I frequently used the tow path and Richmond park as my regular running routes along with my fellow runners from West 4 Harriers.

We’d run alone or in small groups with a group session taking place at Barnes Running Track or across the Chiswick Bridge after dark. I do not ever remember finding it difficult to run on the tow path at any time of the day. I certainly didn’t come to blows with anyone nor was I tutted at for merely running down the street.

Of course, all this changed during the first lockdown. Tow paths became very congested as everyone decided to start using it for the daily walks.

As a runner, you want a clear way through, you don’t want to be stopping and starting and waiting as people pass, so during the first lockdown we started using the empty roads to avoid busy paths and ran through the middle of Richmond Park, away from the paths and the carparks.

The first lockdown was way easier. This new lighter lockdown has not driven the cars off the road, so we are back to running on paths which are more congested than ever.

So what do most runners do? They find alternative routes so they can do what they want to do – run with no stopping and not having to weave through hordes of people (some of whom walk two to three abreast and don’t ever consider going single file as you come towards them).

Image above: Sheen Common; Hounslow Heath; Hanwell

Finding new places to run

Most of us wouldn’t dream of running down a road that was full of people even though we know we the right to do so.

Our Whats app group is full to chatter about where to find alternative routes to avoid busy streets and paths. Richmond Park is almost off the agenda completely now at the weekends.

The good news is that in our quest for a clear run we have found new routes and new green spaces – some of which I didn’t even know existed. And many of them have very few people at all.
The Capital Ring that works its way around the entire capital is one such route. I started from the Brentford end of the canal and worked my way towards the north through Hanwell and Perivale – lovely green and quiet space.

Syon House and the north side of the river is also much quieter and a good place to do some interval training now that the running tracks are shut.

There is also Brent Park and Hounslow Heath; the latter virtually empty. The Ham meadows and the commons such as Sheen common just outside Richmond Park are also quiet and as beautiful as Richmond Park.

The West 4 Harriers are based at Chiswick Cricket Club, Riverside Drive, London W4 2SP

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Runner stopped by a marshal at Hammersmith riverside for ‘breathing heavily’ is a lockdown sceptic

See also: Jogger fined for spitting says he was just sweating

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