Compelled Ultramarathoners and the “New Normal”

As the global pandemic forced cities on lock downs, economic activities practically halted.  Those that were forced to migrate into cities to earn a decent wage are now forced to return back into their homes as their income and sometimes their jobs disappear.  But as public transport was also suspended in many locations around the world to discourage travel, many people have no choice but to walk just to return home.  This is a dilemma of epic proportions!

For some, the lack of public transportation meant walking hours to cover tens of kilometers.  For others, it could mean days on the road and a hundred or so kilometers, with nothing to rely on but the things they can carry.  And for some of them, the road back home doesn’t really offer much help along the way—if they even have the money in the first place to help them buy the things that would help sustain them in their long journey.  And it’s another story for those who are trying to reach another island!

And it’s not just those that opt to return to their places of origin that suffers the same fate.  Front liners without their own vehicles or don’t have shuttle services from their employers that don’t have shelters near their place of work endures the fate daily.  What used to be hours spent on traffic now becomes hours spent walking.  Imagine how many kilometers these people cover in a day.  Imagine how dedicated they are if they are willing to start their work after hours already spent on walks.

A marathon is a little over 42 kilometers long.  Anything longer than that is considered an ultramarathon.  And anyone who has done a marathon or an ultramarathon will tell you covering these distances is not easy!  And these are the folks that do it for leisure, in events that are often controlled and have support.  Imagine how daunting it would be for anyone who has not ran a 5K suddenly embarking on hours of walking in a day, on consecutive days.  Even at two kilometers an hour, you’d be an “ultramarathoner” if you do it in a day—even if you’re just compelled to do it.

This is my usual “new normal” look whenever I go out to do my groceries: the hat that I used when I did BDM102 a decade ago to protect me from the sun as I walk to the supermarket and the usual mask. My prescription glasses serves an an added layer of protection too, especially that they’re a bit oversized.

As Metro Manila further eases its lockdown, I hope that there would be enough public transportation to safely accommodate all the essential workers that will be resuming their work.  And I hope there will be safeguards to protect them from getting the virus while they work.  We are still very far off from the “old normal” so we should all still refrain from acting “normal.”  Let us let the essential workers utilize what limited public transportation is available.  The easing of the lock down (unlike in other countries) does not at all mean that we’ve controlled the spread of the virus.  On the contrary, we’ve seen record high additional new cases in the past few days.  It is rather about restarting the economy and reducing government spending as subsidies are cut since people should have the ability to earn again (assuming they still have somewhere to return to).  What’s good for the economy may not always be good for you, individually.

While it is very, very tempting to do the things we’ve been deprived off for the past two and a half months, now is the worst time to act with complacency.  We have so much more infected people around now than when the community quarantine started, and we still have no idea how many more are unaccounted for so it’s actually the worst time to be out and about if not necessary.  Act as if there’s an asymptomatic carrier around when going out and act like you unknowingly just got the virus to keep others (and yourself) safe.  Like it or not, we’re going to be in this scenario for quite some time (until a cure is found) so our individual actions, collectively, will determine how we’ll survive this pandemic and how “comfortable” our lives will be as a society under this “new normal.”

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