Runner and writer Brian Metzler contemplates the ways running might change as that new normal emerges in the second half of 2020 and beyond.






By Brian Metzler

The Boston Marathon postponed? Running stores closed? No Olympics this year? Statewide orders to stay at home? Trailheads and running tracks off limits? Yikes!

Yeah, the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic is real and it’s even affected our ability to run and exercise. First things first, our personal exercise habits are far less of a priority than the thousands of people who are ailing from the coronavirus. 

To do our part, we must continue to follow social distance guidelines and be respectful about how we interact with other people in public places. We can and should keep running, but we need to do our part to help reduce the spread of the virus. 

Eventually, things will be somewhat normal again, even if it’s a decidedly new normal. Here are some ways running might change as that new normal emerges in the second half of 2020 and beyond.

1) Running Resurgence
For now, we should all embrace running in any way we can, even if it’s just for a 20- to 30-minute daily jaunt around our neighborhood as a daily dose of therapy or affirmation that life is good.With gyms, yoga studios and swimming pools mostly off-limits, running is all we have, and it’s going to lead to a big boom in participation by the time summer rolls around.Sports Illustrated wrote about “running as the outlet” to escape the quarantines and awkwardness of social-distancing recommendations while The New York Times called it “A Back-To-Basics Exercise Boom,” and Running USA has suggested we need to get ready for the Third Running Boom

2) Running Shoe Revival
Having been cooped up because of necessary quarantines and stay-at-home orders,  we’ll all likely appreciate the simplicity of running. All you really need is a pair of shoes, right? Regardless of when races return, expect everyone you know to be buying a new pair of running shoes soon. It will be the new currency of cool, just as it was during the original running boom of the 1970s. Some new models might be late arriving because factories and the production supply chain have been greatly impacted, but there are lots of great shoes debuting this summer and fall. Fast runners, slower runners, new runners and savvy veteran runners will all be able to embrace the notion that, “Happiness is a New Pair of Running Shoes.”

3) The Race is On
This fall could bring about a renewed marathon mania, if — fingers crossed! —big-city races are held as planned. With Boston (Sept. 14) and London (Oct. 4) rescheduled for the fall and Berlin (Sept. 27), Chicago (Oct. 11) and New York (Nov. 1), there could be five Marathon Majors in a six-week period, not to mention many other enticing races from 5K to half marathon. With new runners and veteran runners eager to participate after months of training, it could bring about a huge surge of participation and excitement. But let’s be real and realize that there’s no guarantee those races will actually happen this fall, so maybe we’ll have to wait until next year.

4) Let’s Hit the Trails
Trail Running has been growing for years, but it could grow exponentially through the rest of 2020 given the concerns about overcrowded city parks and mass participation events. If you consider that thousands of people have been hitting the trails since mid-March and the notion that many cooped-up runners are thinking about big, life-changing goals, there’s a good bet that trail running and ultrarunning will get a huge boost through 2021 and beyond.

5) The Rise Inexpensive and Virtual Events
Virtual races have always been a bit quirky, but they suddenly mean a lot more now because we don’t have any other platform to go all out and enjoy the spoils of our efforts. If you haven’t tried Zwift, you should! The virtual running platform is growing by leaps and bounds. Look for more free and inexpensive community-based events to thrive in the second half of 2020 and into 2021. And expect expensive, top-tier events to fall off from previous participation because of the new wave of frugality sweeping the U.S.




Brian Metzler is the author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes” (2019, VeloPress). He has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado. 

He's the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine. He's the author of “Running Colorado's Front Range” and the co-author of “Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running” and “Run Like a Champion: An Olympian's Approach for Every Runner.”



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