I’m so excited to be writing to you again, and I want to start right in with giving all the welcomes and love… but I know you are anxious to hear the bottom line, so here it is: We are planning to try to resume running together in a safe, limited way starting this Wednesday, Sept 2!! As with everything in 2020, however, it’s complicated. So please, please read the following thoroughly, because we have to make a lot of changes to our normal routine to do this in a safe, legal, and responsible way, both for ourselves and the wider community.
The Plan! Below are the basics, to be followed by another e-mail with our first week of routes. Please see here for a summary of our Covid-19 basic adaptations. They are also covered throughout this e-mail in the context of our weekly running routine.
Meeting Place and Format. We will no longer meet at Barclays! Our new meeting place is the St Johns Wood Church Gardens, at the end of the SJW High Street, and across from Lord’s Cricket Ground on Wellington Rd. The easiest entrance from St Johns Wood is on Wellington Place or on the High Street. We will continue to meet at 8:15 for an 8:20 departure, but will plan to give a little extra time the first week to be sure that still works.
Please wear a mask while in the park, and stay within your pace group. Within the park we’ve designated areas for each pace group to meet (see map below). It’s very important that you stick to these areas and maintain a significant distance between groups! Current government guidance makes it illegal for groups greater than 30 people to meet even in public outdoor areas unless they are organised by a Covid-secure organisation, which we are not (see below). We can be fined and effectively shut down for not observing these limits. So as much as we’d like for everyone to be able to mill around as we normally do, we need to stay in separate pace groups– separate gatherings– for now. And within these groups please keep social distancing, stay in groups of six or fewer (more on this below), and wear your mask until we leave the park to run.
“It’s against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces), or in a public outdoors space [emphasis added], unless planned by an organisation in compliance with COVID-19 secure guidance. The government will be introducing fines for those who facilitate or organise illegal gatherings of over 30 people.” (“Meeting People from Outside your Household.” https://www.gov.uk/guidance/meeting-people-from-outside-your-household-from-4-july updated 14 August 2020).
Running in packs of 6 (6-packs!). To follow current UK government guidance, we must run in groups of six or fewer (see below). Pace group leaders have recruited ‘6-pack leaders’ to lead runs on any given day. With these leaders making themselves known (put up a hand!), we can organically group into packs as we arrive. If you feel comfortable doing so, mix it up and run with different people on different days– one of the wonderful things about WRW has always been building new friendships. We will need to leave a 2-3 minute space between 6-packs departing, so once a pack is assembled and ready, they can start off on the run (but delaying a couple of minutes if a group has just gone before them!). And don’t forget to maintain social distancing within the 6-pack as much as possible.
“activity can take place on a one-to-five basis only (i.e. one coach or leader and up to five athletes or runners OR up to six athletes and runners with no coach or leader present). These individuals do not need to be from the same family household, but all must adhere to the latest social distancing guidance.” (“England Athletics Return to Activity: Guidance for Road Running Coaches.”
The Routes. To start, we will be running a limited number of 5-6 mile loop routes on a rotating basis. Our Routes team has put an incredible amount of thought into how to get us out and running together without overwhelming the pavements and severely annoying and/or frightening pedestrians. In addition to their efforts to reroute us to avoid busy areas and busy times, we need to make sure we keep spacing between packs. Even with the spacing, wave after wave of runners will create stress on the streets we’re using. So we will be naming two routes each day: the 8s and 10s will run one route, and the 9s and 11s will run the other. The “Hustlers” (ramping up) group will be running its own routes to begin the year. For the time being, Mondays we will be running in the direction of Hyde Park, Wednesdays will be runs in the direction of Regents Park, and Fridays will be in the direction of the Heath. Runners are welcome to take other routes, or organize destination runs for small groups, but please pay attention to where we are already sending runners, as well as to the UK rules about spacing and group size. We just feel that we cannot organise destination runs, including public transport, on behalf of the entire group at this time.
The Public. As always, we want to be considerate to our community. Anytime you are near other pedestrians, move to single file and make room for social distancing as best you can. Even if we are model citizens, there will undoubtedly be times we are addressed or even yelled at by members of the public whose paths we cross. Please take the high road with these individuals, and do not engage in a negative way. We are easily identifiable as WRW. Not only do we NOT want to be perceived as poor local citizens, but also, even one disgruntled person could cause enough trouble for us that we lose the opportunity to run as a group. Please help us preserve a good reputation!
Our WRW Community. It almost goes without saying that if you or anyone in your household is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, you should not come out to run until you and your household have been cleared based on current UK guidelines. If you develop symptoms after running with us, please notify us at firstname.lastname@example.org AND notify anyone with whom you have run in the past week.
Everyone involved in creating the WRW restart plan understands that each of us has our own personal comfort zone in this pandemic, and we respect each runner’s feelings and decisions regarding if and how they will interact within WRW. We are here to be a supportive group of friends for all, so whether you are comfortable running in small groups with us or you prefer to keep to a more distanced routine at this point, WRW is here for you. Through these e-mails and our WhatsApp groups, we will do our best to continue to support each other whatever the next weeks and months hold. And we will keep looking forward to the day when we can all run and socialize together with less restrictions.
Okay, finally, finally, on the more personal side… Welcome back to all those just returning to London, and a big welcome to those new to London! I’m looking forward to seeing you all– a few at a time and from an appropriate distance, soon! Here on Day 13 of my quarantine, my nose is pressed against my front window and my toes are twitching to put on running shoes (or any shoes) and get outside. I imagine some of you are similarly confined and ready to finally hit the pavements again. Let’s focus together on how wonderful it will be to get back a little more WRW–it may all sound complicated and hard, but I know we can do it! Stay tuned for the regularly scheduled, weekly WRW note– including routes and photos– later this weekend.