It’s been a 100-day version of Alan Sillitoe’s classic novel, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.’’
That is, those striders in and around Bucks County who basically self-quarantined themselves in deference to the pandemic these past three-plus months have been waiting to bust out and rejoin friends on trails, tracks and towpaths.
The protagonist in the Sillitoe book basically had to train alone because he was a prisoner in the British legal system. And that, in somewhat of a twist of irony, is how a lot of people have been feeling these days.
But around here a first possible sign of freedom — call it a jailbreak if you will — arrived this week when the Bucks County Roadrunners cautiously announced the club was bringing back a form of weekly group training sessions not seen since early March.
On Tuesday night, about a half-dozen BCRR members gathered in Lower Makefield for the weekly “McTuesday Night’’ four-mile run – everyone wearing masks, of course, and keeping proper social distance.
This weekend, more club members will gather in Yardley on Saturday morning and Newtown on Sunday morning for similar workouts.
Usually these gatherings draw upwards of 30 people but scaled down versions will do for now.
These are all welcome developments, particularly on a social level. Runners know they do their best work in the company of others.
BCRR coordinator Tyler Murphy posted these reminders on the club website:
>1. Wear a face covering…when standing or running near others, or approaching or passing pedestrians.
>2. Remain 8-12 feet from others.
>3. To avoid congregating, the unofficial official start time will be 4 p.m to 6 p.m. (rather than everyone gathering all together at the usual 6 p.m. time). Contact your friends whom you pace with in advance, to arrange meeting times.
>4. Meet your running friends on Heacock Road on the grass in front of the Masonic Hall (rather than the usual more congested spot in front of McCaffrey’s Market).
>5. Please see running guidelines from Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). It is important that we follow these guidelines for our club’s insurance and also to be good citizens in our friendly neighborhoods.
McTuesday night group leader Joe Boyce says it’s important to follow safety suggestions in these uncertain times.
“In the new COVID-19 reality, the BCRR takes its role in the community seriously,’’ Boyce said. “How do you run with other people responsibly? We’re distributing BCRR masks in a bright summer orange.
“And we’re suggesting friends reach out to their usual pace partners in advance, since there will be no formal start time, nor bunching up for selfies. We’re discouraging gathering in anything other than small groups. We’re encouraging everyone to practice social distancing before, during and after running. Remain a safe distance apart. Wear a mask when running near or passing people.’’
Club official Rich Kanak and staff members have been using RRCA protocols to help set policy.
“The BCRR board has met virtually during the pandemic to stay up to date on how we could best follow local and state guidelines as well as those recommended by the Road Runners Club of America,’’ Kanak said.
“As we navigated our way through this constantly changing situation, we began to talk about how to return to group running. Fortunately RRCA, along with the Chicago Area Running Association, developed and shared suggested guidelines.
“We’ve shared these guidelines with our group run leaders and we will now slowly start returning to group running while keeping in mind the health and safety of our members and the community are the most important consideration.’’
Long-time BCRR member Tom Fuoco takes part in both the Tuesday night sessions as well as club runs and cycle training rides on weekends. He’s eager to see things get back somewhat to normal.
“I’m looking forward to getting back with the McTuesday group,’’ Fuoco said. “Putting in some quality miles with the friendly, talented and safety-minded people is what the group is about.
“The pandemic is just another setback in our running lives. Most runners experience setbacks more often than we would like. But we also learn how to overcome them with time and patience.’’
Boyce believes McTuesdays can make a safe return provided guidelines are followed. If that happens, it will be an uplifting experience.
“One of the great things about McTuesday is its camaraderie,’’ Boyce said. “Presumably, you join a running club to run with people. The more, the merrier has kind of been the McTuesday motto.
“We run to be healthy and we want to stay healthy while also doing our part to help the community stay healthy. When people see us, we hope they think that we’re those friendly runners who are a safe part of the neighborhood.’’