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Running is helping millions of us get through this

Vaught’s note: I love the blog that Terrell Johnson has on running called “Terrell At the Half” and paying subscribers make his newsletter possible. I wanted to share his latest post and you can find more at https://halfmarathons.substack.com.

By TERRELL JOHNSON

Almost a decade ago, I was working in the newsroom of The Weather Channel, writing stories for their website about weather events big and small. When things were quiet — as they usually were in the late spring to early summer back then — we’d reach back into history to find something relevant to say about today, or write brief re-caps that few people, we knew, would bother reading.

But when the skies darkened and storm clouds gathered, every word we published and everything we said on the air was scrutinized like ancient scripture, as people looked for the tiniest hints of foreshadowing in our always-changing forecasts.

As you might imagine, it’s the big weather phenomena — hurricanes, tornadoes, and the like — that get meteorologists the most excited. They’re what challenge most the skills these scientists spend a lifetime developing, and give them the chance to save lives in dire situations.

Sometimes, of course, they get forecasts wrong. I’ll never forget a hurricane that set off alarms — and, consequently, evacuation orders — up and down the East Coast once; people from Washington, D.C., to New York were warned to leave the city or to at least stay in their homes and not venture out.

That time, the weather warnings overshot what the storm actually turned out to be — a still-very-dangerous tropical cyclone that nevertheless never approached the coastline, and ended up turning back out to the ocean, where it died a “fish storm.”

And other times, the opposite happens.

That was the case with 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which swirled slowly out in the Atlantic for days as it wound its way northward from the Caribbean, after crossing over Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas.

Every morning at the daily weather briefings our meteorologists gave, I could hear the anticipation in their voices, an awareness rising that this storm was something out of the ordinary. But for days, they weren’t sure. The storm was far out in the ocean, and was failing to turn toward land, day after day.

Until it did. And when it did, it turned fast and hard, heading for one of the most densely populated places in the world as it barreled toward New York City.

The devastation, of course, you’ll likely remember — especially the photos of New York subways inundated and parking lots with hundreds of cabs up to their roofs in water.

Why am I re-hashing all this old history? Because I keep thinking of incidents like these as we all watch together the events of the past few weeks, which have played out even more slowly than the slowest-moving hurricanes I remember.

A lot of people have expressed surprise — understandably! — at the way in which we have girded ourselves (or failed to do so) as the coronavirus has spread across America. But I hear echoes of what I heard every summer and fall back in my weather-reporting days.

Even when each of us is in our healthiest frame of mind — when we’re not in imminent danger — it’s difficult to grapple with how your life can be changed by something like a major storm. It’s human nature to want to put it aside and ignore it.

It’s easy for me to say to someone, “wake up and see what’s happening!” But each of us has to come to that awareness on our own.

That’s why taking it day by day — and trying to minimize the flood of news that’s coming into all our homes and across all our smartphones — is the way I’m trying to approach it.

We probably haven’t seen as big an uptick in running in recent years as we’re seeing right now, if the New York Times and Sports Illustrated are right. I think it’s because each of us is looking for a way to process what’s happening, and running offers the perfect way to do that, one step at a time, one day at a time.

How are you processing it? Is running helping you get through this? I’d love to hear your story — either in the comments below, or in reply back.

I hope you are all well, my friends — as always, keep in touch.

2 comments

  1. Haven’t met anything yet to make me run that far, except my neighbor’s bull and I just have to beat him to the fence or the barn; whichever is closer.

    Seriously though, I used to run a lot, but having one leg shorter than the other has caught up with my pelvis.

    1. That would indeed make it harder to run

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