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Top Ten Stories of the Week
5/30/2020

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Could the New York City Marathon be canceled? Mayor Bill de Blasio says it's 'too early' to decide but options like virtual runs are being explored for the November 1 race

On Wednesday Mayor Bill De Blasio said it was 'too early' to decide whether to cancel the iconic annual New York City marathon set for November 1

He said he is in talks with race organizers and they are exploring other options

He praised the New York Road Runners clubs for their adoption of virtual races

'The thing we’re going to be most conservative about is large gatherings of people,' De Blasio said on the race that gathered over 53,000 runners last year 

Mayor Bill De Blasio says it too soon to tell whether the annual New York CityMarathon will be canceled or not - but has revealed that alternative options such as virtual runs are being explored.

On Wednesday the mayor was asked if the annual race, the largest marathon in the world that courses through all five boroughs, will still take place on its scheduled date Sunday November 1. 

'The marathon itself is obviously a ways off so we’re talking to them but it’s too early to come to any conclusions,' De Blasio said. 'But they are right at the table with us as we consider what to do.'

De Blasio expressed concern over maintaining social distancing at the race that gathers thousands of athletes. Last year there was a record 53,627 runners who crossed the finish line. 

The really big events are the last piece of the puzzle so we really have to think carefully about any large gathering and I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be a while until we’re comfortable with any large gathering.

'The thing we’re going to be most conservative about is large gatherings of people because that’s where you have the most negative impact with the resurgence of this disease,' De Blasio said.

He noted that in light of the crisis some organizations, such as the New York Road Runners club, have initiated virtual marathons as a way to keep big events going while maintaining social distancing after canceling all in person races through August 15. 

Marathons bring millions of dollars to America’s biggest cities. The most recent analysis of the TCS New York City Marathon found that the 2019 race injected $415million  into the local economy, as per CNBC.

He noted that in light of the crisis some organizations, such as the New York Road Runners club, have initiated virtual marathons as a way to keep big events going while maintaining social distancing after canceling all in person races through August 15. 

Marathons bring millions of dollars to America’s biggest cities. The most recent analysis of the TCS New York City Marathon found that the 2019 race injected $415million  into the local economy, as per CNBC.

(05/23/20) Views: 732
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Exercise and the Immune System

There seem to be two groups of people, those who “never get sick” and those who are chronically under the weather. Over the years, I have been a member of both camps. While I have previously suffered from overtraining syndrome and had what felt like chronic upper respiratory infections–which I wrote about in this RunFar article–I have more recently (and despite teaching high-school kids) avoided colds, flus, and other bugs. I’m sure writing that sentence will cause me to soon fall ill, though!

Why do we seem to get sick more often sometimes, and less sick in others? How does our immune system work to protect us from illness? And in what ways does exercise impact our immune system’s function? These are important questions for a community that enjoys pushing our bodies, sometimes in fairly extreme ways.

The Basics of the Immune System

I’ve mentioned this before and I think it’s worth mentioning again now: the human body is an incredibly clever system that works surprisingly well most of the time! One particularly clever element is our immune system. The immune system’s job is to protect you from outside intruders such as antigens (any toxin or foreign substance), including pathogens (bacterium, virus, or microorganism that can cause disease). Your immune system is broken into two main responses: innate immunity which is often referred to as non-specific immunity and adaptive immunity which is known as specific immunity

graphic showing how the immune system is broken down into two major response types, innate and adaptive immunity, and what those responses involve. Image: Hackney, A. C. (2013). Clinical management of immuno-suppression in athletes associated with exercise training: Sports medicine considerations. Acta Medica Iranica, 51(11), 751–756.

The innate immune system is referred to as non-specific because it mounts the same response each time no matter the type of intruder. The innate immune response includes what are known as your first and second lines of defense. The first line of defense includes not only physical barriers like your skin, but also chemical defenses like sweat, stomach acid, tears, mucus linings, and saliva. The second line of defense can be considered a chemical defense, in this case involving a variety of white blood cells. The white blood cells primarily responsible in the innate system are called neutrophils and macrophages. Both of these cell types are phagocytes, which means their job is to protect us via the process of phagocytosis (engulfing and digesting things that do not belong).ow a macrophage (the biggest of the phagocytes) identifies an intruder, engulfs it, and then uses enzymes in its lysosome to “digest” the invader. The macrophage then releases “signals” (in the form of cytokines) to sound the alarm to other cells. Image: Letstalkscience.ca/educational-resources/stem-in-context/immune-response

The adaptive immune response, called the specific response and the third line of defense, is a more complex chemical response because of how it learns to identify different antigens and is acquired over our lifetime starting from the moment we make our entrance into this world. Like the innate immune response, the adaptive response utilizes white blood cells to identify and destroy intruders, this time relying on a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte. Lymphocytes are special in the sense that they develop memory when exposed to antigens, so that when you are exposed to them again your body is better prepared to fight them off. We develop our adaptive immunity from both natural exposures to antigens over the course of our lifetime and via other exposures like vaccines.

Moderate Aerobic Exercise is Good for the Immune System

Despite the field of exercise immunology being a relatively new area of scientific study with 90% of papers published after 1990, original studies date back over a century (4). Early research focused specifically on exercise-induced changes in cell counts (how many white blood cells were present before and after exercise of different intensities). From this vast body of scientific literature, we know that daily moderate exercise (up to 60 minutes of easy aerobic exercise) provides an overall “boost” to our immune system’s function, increasing our resistance to mild infections like the common cold (8). This is due to the enhanced recirculation of immunoglobulins (proteins that help recognize specific antigens), anti-inflammatory cytokines (molecules that help regulate inflammatory response), neutrophils (part of our innate immune response), and lymphocytes (part of our adaptive immune response) (4).

Can Exercise Be Bad for the Immune System?

If 60 minutes of aerobic exercise is good for our immune system, then is more better? It’s quite possible that you’ve become sick shortly after a big effort or goal race, and that’s exactly what researchers have found in widely published studies in the 1980s continuing through the present. These studies illustrate that infectious episodes (reported upper respiratory infection [URI] symptoms) increased after taking part in large endurance events. This includes a study from the 1982 Two Oceans Marathon–actually a 56-kilometer ultramarathon–where one third of the participants self-reported URI symptoms within two weeks of the race (4, 5). This and many other studies (generally conducted on major road marathon participants) helped to form the idea behind an exercise immunology theory known as the open window theory (5, 6).

The open window theory is the idea that after an intensive exercise session (either a long or hard effort) there is a period of time, generally three to 72 hours, where you have an increased susceptibility to illness. This was supported by what appeared to be a dramatic falloff of circulating lymphocytes (in particular natural killer cells, a subset of lymphocytes called T cells) post-exercise (1, 2). These values were shown to be as much as 40% below baseline cell counts (2). This was concerning because the initial studies reporting this rapid lymphocyte reduction also reported large rates of cell death (2).

That sounds bad. Well, those initial cell-death values were never substantiated–phew!–but where are the lymphocytes going if they are not dying? It turns out that lymphocytes are believed to shift to more peripheral locations in the body where they are more likely to encounter an antigen, such as in the lungs or gut (2). Think of this as white blood cell redeployment in which there is enhanced immune surveillance following strenuous exercise.

What Should Athletes Do to Decrease Illness Risk?

If we know that multiple factors influence our immune systems, what can each of us do to make sure our immune system functions properly? Address those factors!

Monitor your exercise workload. Adequate stress plus adequate rest equals optimal physiological improvement. But when this is thrown out of alignment and physical stress accumulates without appropriate rest, impairments in your immune system function may occur and result in an increased risk of getting sick (8). Regular exercise is good for your immune system, but a training load that is too high for too long can take its toll. Be sure to read our article on overtraining syndrome to learn more about the stress-rest balance.

Consider fueling strategies during exercise and avoid overall nutritional deficiency and caloric restriction. The scientific literature suggests that ingesting carbohydrates during prolonged or intense activity is associated with reduced stress hormones and reductions in inflammation. Additionally, maintaining a balanced and diverse diet that meets your needs and energy demands to match your training, including proper hydration, is important (2).

Practice good hygiene. Avoid close contact with individuals who are or have been sick recently, frequently wash your hands throughout the day, and avoid touching your face (nose, mouth, and eyes).

Practice stress management. Although short-term stress (like exercise) might have a positive effect on your immune system, chronic stress does not. Chronic stress can suppress your immune responses by decreasing the numbers and functionality of lymphocytes, and dysregulating your innate and adaptive immune responses (7).

Get adequate sleep. Sleep disturbances can depress your immune system, increase inflammation, and promote other poor health outcomes. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Learn more about how sleep and your immune system interact in our in-depth sleep article.

Evaluate your touchpoints with others. Be considerate of how you interact with the world around you, including at running events and races. Consider fist bumps over high fives, be considerate of how you interact with race volunteers, and minimize what you touch at aid stations. (I have a habit of touching everything.) Be cognizant of not only your own health, but also the health of others. Practicing good hygiene isn’t limited to only when it’s convenient.

(05/24/20) Views: 346
I Run Far
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Could the New York City Marathon be cancelled, due to the Pandemic?

Mayor Bill de Blasio says it's 'too early' to decide but options like virtual runs are being explored for the November 1 race.

On Wednesday the mayor was asked if the annual race, the largest marathon in the world that courses through all five boroughs, will still take place on its scheduled date Sunday November 1. 

'The marathon itself is obviously a ways off so we’re talking to them but it’s too early to come to any conclusions,' De Blasio said. 'But they are right at the table with us as we consider what to do.'

De Blasio expressed concern over maintaining social distancing at the race that gathers thousands of athletes. Last year there was a record 53,627 runners who crossed the finish line. 

'The really big events are the last piece of the puzzle so we really have to think carefully about any large gathering and I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be a while until we’re comfortable with any large gathering.

'The thing we’re going to be most conservative about is large gatherings of people because that’s where you have the most negative impact with the resurgence of this disease,' De Blasio said. 

He noted that in light of the crisis some organizations, such as the New York Road Runners club, have initiated virtual marathons as a way to keep big events going while maintaining social distancing after canceling all in person races through August 15. 

Marathons bring millions of dollars to America’s biggest cities. The most recent analysis of the TCS New York City Marathon found that the 2019 race injected $415million  into the local economy, as per CNBC.

The marathon's organizers haven't released any statement on the future of the race yet. 

(05/22/20) Views: 279
Marlene Lenthang
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World half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor is hopeful of making one more attempt to win the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia in 2021

Kamworor lost his title last year in Denmark, representing his first defeat in cross country in four attempts as he finished third.

Now, the 27-year-old believes he will overcome the health and safety challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to return to action and dominate cross country once more to win his third title as a senior.

"We shall bounce back stronger," Kamworor said on Monday. "However, what is important now is to stay safe, remain focused and stay positive. It is temporary what we are witnessing. Together we shall overcome."

Mount Panorama in Bathurst is better known as the home of Australia's premier endurance motor race, but next March 20 it will welcome the world's best endurance runners for what will be Australia's first World Athletics Series event in 25 years.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said he is looking forward to attending the event.

"I want to express my thanks to the efforts made in producing what will be an extraordinary championship," Coe said.

"This has been an exceptionally challenging year for the community and for sport globally, so I'm very excited about the prospect of a return to world championship competition next year."

Coe also noted that cross country is important to World Athletics, adding that there are no plans to remove it from the calendar.

"Bathurst promises to be a great celebration of sport, from elite to community level. I really love cross country. These championships will not only feature the best distance runners of their generation, but possibly of all time. I encourage anyone with young people in their family to attend as this is a truly inspiring event," he said.

Of the World Athletics Series events that were scheduled for 2020, only the World Half Marathon Championships will go ahead this year, on 17 October in Gdynia, Poland.

The World Indoor Championships will be held in Nanjing in March 2021, but the World U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, and the World Race Walking Team Championships in Minsk, Belarus have yet to be rescheduled.

(05/25/20) Views: 267
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has lifted the country's state of emergency after a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Tokyo 2020 host nation

Japan declared the state of emergency on April 16 after fearing a second wave of infection from the virus, and further extended it in early May.

Its introduction came a week after Tokyo, Osaka and five other urban areas had restrictions placed on them from April 7.

Many areas of the nation had previously seen the restrictions lifted, but now the remaining five prefectures will join them.

These are the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, its neighbouring areas of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama and the northern island of Hokkaido.

The nation has seen a fall in confirmed cases over the past month, recording its lowest number of new daily cases yesterday since February 29 with 14.

It has also seen a fall in the number of active cases, reaching a peak of 11,443 on April 28 with the number now down to 2,317.

However, the city and host of the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo, saw a return to double figures for confirmed cases in a day, suggesting that the threat of infection is still there.

"We had very stringent criteria for lifting the state of emergency," Abe said in a televised press conference today.

"We have judged that we have met this criteria.

"Today we will lift the state of emergency nationwide."

Economic Revitalisation Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a panel today, according to Kyodo News, that the state of emergency is "no longer necessary in all prefectures".

Nishimura had suggested yesterday that this would be the announcement made with confirmed cases falling.

The day before Japan entered its state of emergency the country had 741 confirmed cases in a single day – the second highest daily rate after 743 new cases were reported on April 11.

There will still be some restrictions put in place by the Government, with citizens asked not to cross prefectural borders until the end of the month.

The first phase of lifting restrictions will see museums and libraries reopen, while restaurants will be open during the day, closing at 10pm which is two hours later than the state of emergency rules.

A second phase could start at the end of the month, which sources suggest could see shops and cinemas reopen.

However, places like gyms, karaoke bars and music venues will still be closed.

To date, there have been more than 16,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Japan, resulting in the deaths of 820 people.

The outbreak caused the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics until next year.

However, doubts remain about the rearranged Games taking place if COVID-19 remains prevalent. 

(05/26/20) Views: 156
Michael Houston
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A final decision will be made within the next two weeks weather the Boston Marathon will be held this Fall

A final decision will be made in the next week or two about whether to hold the Boston Marathon in September, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said Friday.

“The decision needs to be made soon,” Walsh told WGBH News. “You can’t cancel the marathon four days ahead of time.”

The decision also won’t be made lightly, Walsh said, noting that other cities that postponed marathons haven’t yet canceled them.

Earlier in the week, Walsh said the decision to reschedule the marathon from April to Sept. 14 was made with the hope that the disease “would no longer be a significant public health risk.”

Since then, thousands of Massachusetts residents have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and precautions like social distancing, the use of masks in public spaces, and bans on large public gatherings remain in effect.

The Boston Athletic Association told WBZ-TV on Tuesday that it is “actively exploring all options for this year’s race.”

Walsh said that he has been tested both for COVID-19 and the antibodies produced from exposure to the virus. The Democrat said he tested negative for COVID-19 and is still waiting for results from the antibody test.

(05/24/20) Views: 100
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The Boston Marathon has been canceled for the first time in its 124-year history.

The 2020 Boston Marathon has been canceled. 

BAA organizers said Thursday that they instead will have a “virtual event” in which participants who verify that they ran 26.2 miles on their own will receive their finisher’s medal. The race had originally been scheduled for April 20 before being postponed for five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for a historic 124th Boston Marathon,” said Tom Grilk, the CEO of the Boston Athletic Association.

The BAA has announced that the 124th Boston Marathon will be held as a virtual event, following Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s cancellation of the marathon as a mass participation road running event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/tlIdvsU9sq

The B.A.A. will offer a series of virtual events & activities throughout September’s Marathon Week to bring the Boston Marathon experience to the world. This will include exclusive panel discussions, champions interviews, and a downloadable toolkit with signature race elements.

Although the title of Boston Marathon champion is contested by a few dozen elite athletes, the field includes more than 30,000 recreational and charity runners, with as many as 1 million people lined up along the course trek from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay. That presented organizers with a social distancing problem that won’t be solved by the fall.

The cancellation is the first ever for the race, which began in 1897 when 15 men drew a starting line in the dirt in Ashland and headed for the city to commemorate the first modern Olympic Games the previous year. In 1918, the format was modified to a relay due to World War I; the 2013 race was stopped when two bombs exploded at the finish line, several hours after the winners had finished but while many recreational runners were still on the course.

For each of those years, the race was held in April on the state holiday to commemorate the battles in Lexington and Concord that marked the start of the Revolutionary War. Traditionally, the Red Sox have scheduled their first pitch for the morning so baseball fans could wander over to Kenmore Square after the game to see the runners pass by with one mile to go.

In March, when the race was postponed to Sept. 14, Mayor Marty Walsh cited the desire to salvage the estimated $211 million pumped into the city’s economy each year. The Boston Athletic Association and marathon runners also raise about $40 million for charity.

Walsh said at the time that there was no thought of excluding the tens of thousands of amateur runners who consider running Boston a bucket list achievement. The Tokyo Marathon went on as scheduled in March with just over 200 elite runners but not the 38,000 recreational runners who had signed up; spectators at the Los Angeles Marathon were advised to practice social distancing.

“That’s not the Boston Marathon. We’re an inclusive marathon,” Walsh said. “The Boston Marathon is for everyone.”

The 2021 Boston Marathon is scheduled for April 19 and the 125th anniversary edition is scheduled for April 18, 2022.

(05/28/20) Views: 71
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The 2020 edition of the UTMB might be cancelled, but now you can look back and enjoy the 2019 race coverage for free

This week, the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc was officially cancelled for 2020, and as a result, race organizers are releasing the 2019 event footage to runners and fans for free. This would have been the eighteenth edition of the trail race, but athletes will have to wait until 2021 to race through France, Italy and Switzerland again.

Luckily, fans of the event can rewatch last year’s run, and although it’s not as good as the 2020 race going ahead as planned, it’s still some good news in these hard times. The race footage can be viewed at the Endurance Sports TV website.

The UTMB is an event with seven different races, all of which take place in Chamonix, France, each August. The biggest of these events is the 171K UTMB Mont-Blanc race, which takes runners through the the Alps in France, Italy and Switzerland. Runners also have to climb more than 10,000m over the 100-mile event, which is higher than Mount Everest.

It is an epic race and challenge, and each year thousands of runners travel to France to see how they fare in one of the seven races (although a third of the UTMB Mont-Blanc runners don’t make it to the finish line). If you’ve never watched this event, you’ll definitely want to check it out.

“The UTMB is a huge event to be cancelled this year, yet we don’t want fans to miss out, and have therefore opened up all of last year’s content for free,” said co-founder of Endurance Sports TV Paul Shanley. “We hope that this will give runners the next best thing to look back on all of the action from 2019.”

The 2019 edition of the UTMB saw thrilling results, including American Courtney Dauwalter‘s win in 24 hours, 34 minutes and 26 seconds. This was Dauwalter’s first try at the UTMB, and she nailed it, beating the second-place female, Kristin Berglund of Sweden, by almost exactly an hour. Dauwalter finished in 21st place overall, and she was the second American finisher, crossing the line just seven minutes after fellow American Jason Schlarb.

Rewatching this event, or watching it for the first time, is a great way to get motivated for your own training. It can be tough to find inspiration to train right now during COVID-19 with no races to work toward, but watching UTMB 2019 will certainly give you the boost you need to get back into action.

(05/25/20) Views: 68
Madeleine Kelly
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Senior Olympics official John Coates has warned that holding the postponed Tokyo Games next year faces real problems

A senior Olympics official has warned that holding the postponed Tokyo Games next year faces "real problems", with even a vaccine unlikely to stave off the threat of the coronavirus.

John Coates, the International Olympic Committee's pointman for Tokyo 2020, indicated that officials would start deciding in October if and how the pandemic-hit Games could go ahead in July 2021.

He told a roundtable organised by Australian media giant News Corp that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been clear the Tokyo Olympics could not be delayed a second time.

"We can't postpone it again and we have to assume that there won't be a vaccine or, if there is a vaccine, it won't be sufficient to share around the world," he said.

Without the safety net of a widely available vaccine, there could be enormous challenges in screening tens of thousands of people from all corners of the world, he said.

"We've got real problems because we've got athletes having to come from 206 different nations," said Coates.

"We've got 11,000 athletes coming, 5,000 technical officials and coaches, 20,000 media, we've got 4,000 working on the organising committee there at the moment, there will be 60,000 volunteers coming," he said.

"There's a lot of people."

Coates said if there are signs the pandemic is contained, even if not eradicated, by October, officials will start preparing "the different scenarios by which the sport could take place".

"Do we quarantine the Olympic village? Do all athletes when they get there go into quarantine? Do we restrict having spectators at the venues? Do we separate the athletes from the mixed zone where the media are?"

(05/22/20) Views: 58
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Having been cancelled due to the pandemic, this year’s Lewa Safari Marathon will be staged virtually, with Eliud Kipchoge leading the way

On Saturday, Kipchoge ran in a practice session at the Conservancy alongside Lewa Rangers to help drum up support for the virtual race.

The fastest marathoner in the world teamed up with World Half Marathon giant Geoffrey Kamworor alongside two other athletes, Philemon Rono and Jonathan Rotich.

Kipchoge’s presence at the Conservancy located in Kenya’s North was a boost for the wildlife rangers and Tusk’s Director of Programmes in Africa, Sarah Watson who joined them on the run.

“I urge everybody to participate and just run where they are. We are all part of the human family and we must keep strong, stay fit, observe directives from our government, and know this situation is not permanent.”

“I have never taken part in the Lewa (Safari) Marathon before, but it was very inspiring to run with the rangers today in this beautiful conservancy and motivate them. I would ask the rangers to continue doing a good job, because they are conserving our wildlife and environment.”

Kipchoge struck through the picturesque Lewa terrain, with a mouth-watering background of grazing elephants and buffalos as the Rangers struck in tow, looking to keep up with the pace of a world beater.

It was a win-win day for Kipchoge who also got to experience a different set-up from his Eldoret base where he has been training in isolation since all athletics camps were closed as the world battles to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“My team and I are honored and very excited to have run with Eliud and his team today. Eliud is our brother, friend and supporter who recognizes the challenges that we face as wildlife rangers. This run has boosted our morale and encouraged us to keep going in this difficult time,” said Edward Ndiritu, Lewa’s Head of Anti-Poaching.

Athletes who will have registered will run from wherever they are as they continue supporting the marathon which had hoped to raise close to Sh500mn this year to aid in Lewa’s conservancy projects.

This year’s race was set to be supported by Safaricom and Huawei, with Safaricom having stepped down their annual financial support and instead joined up with the Chinese electronics company to raise the annual budget.

 

(05/25/20) Views: 49
Timothy Olobulu
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