News19 May 2020

The New Normal: Life in the time of coronavirus - 14-19 May


Runners jogging in the Bois de Boulogne park, after the mayor of Lille announced the reopening of some parks and gardens in the northern French city (© AFP/Getty Images)

Here we continue to share stories and updates about how the athletics world is adjusting to and coping with the spread of Covid-19.

If you're an athlete, race organiser or manager with a story to tell, please get in touch so we can share your story, too.

Previous updates:

20-22 March | 23-25 March | 26-28 March | 29-31 March | 1-3 April | 4-8 April | 9-12 April | 13-17 April | 18-22 April | 23-28 April | 29 April - 3 May | 4-8 May | 9-13 May

Updates by Jon Mulkeen and Bob Ramsak

Tuesday 19 May


Cherono gives back

13:00 - 19 May
Boston and Chicago Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono visited Neema Children’s Home in Eldoret last weekend where he donated foodstuff to more than 50 children to help them cope with the coronavirus.

In an interview with the Daily Nation, Cherono - who had been named on Kenya's 2020 Olympic marathon team - explained how his training and competition plans have changed.

"A whole season has gone to waste due to the coronavirus which caught everybody unaware with races cancelled across the globe," he said. "Athletes depend on competition and we are all at home praying that the virus may be contained. We just have to wait because life is more important."


Friday night at the (vaulting) movies

13:00 - 19 May
Fancy a night at the movies? Missing social occasions with your friends? Desperate for a fix of live athletics?

Fortunately for anyone living in or near Düsseldorf, you can do all three at the PSD Bank Flight Night Düsseldorf on 12 June.

In what will be Germany’s first professional spectator sporting event since the corona lockdown, a pole vaulting facility will be set up in the Autokino Düsseldorf, where three of the country’s leading pole vaulters will compete, surrounded by the spectators' cars.

Germany’s 2013 world champion Raphael Holzdeppe, 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher Bo Kanda Lita Baehre and World University Games silver medallist Torben Blech will be taking part.

Spectators can watch the action unfold right in front of them or, if they prefer, on the big cinema screen. Naturally, protective measures will be observed.  

More information


Hungry for more live action?

11:20 - 19 May
Following the shot put competition they held a few weeks ago, the Belarus Athletics Federation is staging a triple jump contest today.

It includes the likes of 2017 European U20 champion Violetta Skvartsova and European U20 silver medallist Mark Mazheika and will be streamed on their YouTube channel from 5pm CEST.


Monday 18 May


Henrik and Jakob Ingebrigtsen gunning for Norwegian 5km record on Wednesday (20)

15:00 - 18 May
The Norwegian brothers will be making their 2020 outdoor debuts on the roads in Stavanger, Norway, not far from their hometown of Sandnes, with an eye on breaking the national 5km record of 13:37 set by Sondre Norstad Moen in Monaco last year.

European Athletics reports:

“We had to make sure that the course was measured and the competition approved before we said yes,” said their coach and father Gjert as reported by ABC Nyheter.

The race has been fully adapted to comply with health and infection control rules. The athletes will line up in grid format and there will be a half-a-minute gap between the two pools.

The race will also mark both runners' road 5km debuts. It will also be Jakob Ingebrigtsen's first race as a senior as he (finally) moves on from the U20 ranks.



Cautious optimism the theme as some athletes begin to ease out of lockdown

12:00 - 18 May
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease in many European countries, we checked in with three athletes who have recently resumed training in more familiar surroundings.

“Since returning to the track, it’s been a special feeling,” said Italian high jumper Elena Vallortigara. “I missed it so much."

In early March, Vallortigara struggled to cope mentally with the COVID-19 pandemic as it began to tighten its deadly grip on Italy.

“At the beginning, my anxiety was so high that I felt like I was always ill,” she adds. “So I decided to stop reading and listening to unofficial news and I concentrated on other positive things, on my relationships and on myself. I also cooked a lot and took care of my house. It hasn’t been easy, but I found a very good balance.”

Now, she said, "I can’t wait to compete again and I hope with all my heart there will be some meetings this summer.”

Similarly for Austria's Lukas Weisshaidinger, the discus throw bronze medallist at last year's World Championships, who said that the announcement that a throws meeting organised by coach Gregor Hogler for early June was like "going back to business".

“The thought of that meeting gave me the same feeling as competing at the Olympics. Knowing that we can compete again in Austria was like a switch going off in my brain. The feeling I had for days after was great. I know I maybe have only two of three local meets in Austria this year but I feel honoured and very happy at this. It is very important I have something to train for.”

Meanwhile, preparedness and a positive attitude have helped combined events standout Ivona Dadic emerge from the restrictions in a good place - physically and mentally.

"We made a plan with what that I could do at home," the 2018 world indoor pentathlon silver medallist said. "I focused on mostly physical things like weight training and speed endurance. These parts of training went pretty well. Our way of thinking was, ‘let’s think about what we can do and not about things we can’t do’.”



Ethiopian athletes raise funds to combat coronavirus in virtual run

09:30 - 18 May
Several of the country's athletics greats, including Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba and her sisters Genzebe and Ejegayehu, and two-time Olympic 10,000m champion Derartu Tulu took part in a virtual run on Saturday (16) to raise money to combat the spread of the new coronavirus in Ethiopia.

Proceeds from the race, organised by Grand African Run, an annual fun run usually held in the United States, and the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, will go to two Ethiopia-based non-profit organisations working to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country.



Sunday 17 May


Medical student Finn ahead of the pack

19:15 - 17 May
When she isn’t putting in the miles on the roads, US distance runner and first-year medical student Erin Finn dedicates much of the rest of her time to studying.

She recently completed a two-year master's program at the University of Michigan in public health and epidemiology – a qualification that has come in useful in recent months.

“I’ve been able to understand a lot of the research going into caring for people with Covid, and why there has to be a methodical approach to how to search for an effective drug,” she said. “And why those vaccines, even if they are created quickly, need to go through a certain methodical research process to make sure what the effects are and if there are any negative side effects.

“I was actually invited to help create a course for the second- and third-year medical students that explains what epidemiology is and how it can affect a physician's practice of medicine in this current pandemic or in general.”

As social restrictions are relaxed, Finn’s main piece of advice is to follow the recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

“While it’s important for people to take care of their mental health and be working, and take care of other medical issues, it's important to be judicious,” she said. “Just because restrictions are lifted doesn't mean you have to go crazy and be at big social gatherings. We need to be conscious of the groups we're in, and how often and how many people we're seeing. We need to do as much as we can for as long as we can to protect as many people as we can.”

As for her running, Finn has adjusted her immediate goals. With PBs of 15:23.16 for 5000m (indoors) and 31:51.84 for 10,000m, she had been working towards competing on the track at the US Olympic Trials, but now she has turned her attention to making her marathon debut.

“I haven't run any marathons, but it's always been a goal of mine,” she said. “I’ve always been a distance machine, a little aerobic engine, and I've always been excited for when I'd be able to transition to the marathon. One good thing about (these times) is that I've been able to make the transition earlier than I would have otherwise.”

Full story


Comic relief

13:05 - 17 May
Italian heptathlon champion Sveva Gerevini has been turned into a comic character as a way of spreading the message of the new training guidelines put in place by the Italian Athletics Federation (FIDAL).

The illustrations, created by Sandro Pizziolo, shows Gerevini keeping a safe distance from training partners, running with an empty lane between her and her partners, and regularly cleaning athletics equipment.

“This time away from athletics has led me to reflect a lot on how essential contact with one’s environment is for an athlete,” said the 23-year-old. “All of these emotions, which were put on hold for weeks, have returned to being everyday life and have made me aware of how lucky I am to be able to return to full capacity without particular difficulties.”

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Bitter betters treadmill record

12:45 - 17 May
Nine months after setting an equivalent mark on the road, Zach Bitter broke the world record for a 100-mile treadmill run on Saturday (16), stopping the clock at 12:09:15.

The US ultra-runner set the road record last August with a time of 11:19:13. With his racing plans affected by cancellations and postponements, Bitter set his sights on breaking the 100-mile treadmill world record of 12:32:26, set one year ago by Canadian runner Dave Proctor.

He ended up smashing that mark by more than 20 minutes. At the end of his run, his wife Nicole even made a finish tape from toilet paper.

The entire run was captured on YouTube (in two parts: here and here).

Note: treadmill records are not ratified or recognised by World Athletics, but they are by the Guinness Book of Records.


Saturday 16 May


Teacher by day, athlete by Knight

20:35 - 16 May
Following her big breakthrough in February, Jessie Knight was really looking forward to the outdoor season.

The Briton was undefeated on the 400m flat during the indoor season, clocking a huge PB of 51.57 to win at the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Glasgow. Her time put her third on the 2020 world indoor list and boded well for a similarly significant breakthrough later in the year in her specialist event, the 400m hurdles.

Jessie Knight

But although she had much to look forward to, like many athletes heading into 2020, the 25-year-old is at peace with having to put her Olympic ambitions on hold for a year.

“I was really looking forward to the outdoor season and felt a huge amount of disappointment when events started to be cancelled, just like every other athlete,” she said. “I think for me, having such a successful indoor season made it worse as I felt like I had timed things perfectly and I was reaching my potential at the right time.

“However, I also feel fortunate enough to have had a successful indoor season when some athletes haven’t had a chance to race at all yet this year. I definitely feel in a really good place for next year and have more belief in myself – the most important thing will be staying healthy and injury free.”

With tracks in the UK still closed, Knight has adapted her training in recent weeks. Her working life has also changed significantly.

Knight works as a primary school teacher and now most of her teaching is done through online videos or over the phone. But, just as before, she continues to fit her training around her work.

“My teaching life has changed drastically and I am definitely missing seeing the children each day,” she says. “We are making daily learning slides that are sent home to children and have taken a lot of getting used to as a teacher –it’s a whole new way of planning. The hardest part is keeping it interactive and engaging for the children who are no doubt missing their friends and teachers.

“I’m also trying to stay in contact with my class by sending them videos and phone calling parents, which seems to be working well and it is lovely to speak to the children too during this difficult time.

“I think the key thing for me was creating a new routine,” added Knight, who has been doing hurdles sessions at a local park. “I complete all of my school work during the day but find that I stop at around 4pm – earlier than 5:45pm when I would normally leave work. This means that I am able to train a little earlier and with having no travel time or training group to socialise with, I find that my sessions take up less time too. It has certainly been nice eating my dinner earlier than 10pm!”

Although the big focus remains on competing at major championships when they’re back on the menu, Knight says she’s keen to compete later this year if possible.

“I am definitely hoping to compete sometime this year if the opportunity arises,” she said. “I feel as though I am in good shape and it would be great to follow up on an amazing indoor season for me, particularly to race over the hurdles.

“However, I feel my main focus is 2021 now so my coach and I will have to come up with a plan that ensures we can start winter training at the right time in preparation for next season.”


An immunology expert view on racing’s return

15:15 - 16 May
Immunology expert Professor Kingston Mills, a former international runner for Ireland with a marathon PB of 2:13:55, believes there is no reason why athletics competition might not be able to restart within weeks or months, but says event organisers will need to be innovative.

Mills, who represented Ireland at the 1987 World Championships, is now professor of experimental immunology at Trinity College Dublin and head of the Centre for the Study of Immunology at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, currently co-leading its Covid-19 immunology project.

Speaking to Athletics Weekly, he said that running training is a low-risk activity when it comes to transmitting the coronavirus but the issue comes with the mass-participation and spectator elements of the sport.

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Friday 15 May


Bitter aiming to better 100 mile treadmill record

17:15 - 15 May
Race Results Weekly reports that ultramarathoner Zach Bitter will be out to break treadmill records for both 100 miles and 12 hours (of continuous running!) at his home on Saturday (16).

Bitter, who will be running on a new, top-of-the line NordicTrack Commercial X22i treadmill, will try to cover more than 153.8 kilometers (95.5 miles) through the 12-hour mark, then hold on to get to 100 miles (161 kilometers) in under 12:32:26. He will need to run at an average pace slightly faster than 4:41 per kilometer (7:32 per mile) to achieve the existing records which were set by Canadian Dave Proctor on a treadmill at the Calgary Convention Center on May 25, 2019.

This will be the 34-year-old's first record attempt on a treadmill but he's already in the record books. He set a pending US record of 6:39:09 for 100km on 400-metre track at the Desert Solstice Track Invitational in Phoenix last December and in August covered 100 miles on an oversized indoor 443-metre track at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee.

Read the rest.


Next WDL Callroom slated for Saturday night

13:15 - 15 May
Here's a good way to follow up Saturday's Ultimate Garden Clash: the next edition of the WDL's Call Room, dubbed the Shanghai edition as it coincides with the day the series was meant to touch down for the 11th time in China's largest city.

In this episode, Murielle Ahoure, Omar McLeod and Faith Kipyegon join the Wanda Diamond League communications team to discuss their lives and training in lockdown and how they're looking ahead.

The show will go out on the Diamond League Facebook page and its YouTube channel beginning at 20:00 CET on Saturday (16).


Athletes now able to register for support from relief fund

11:35 - 15 May
Professional athletes who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic will be able to register for a one-off welfare grant from today until May 31.

Two weeks ago World Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) announced that a US$ 500,000 welfare fund had been created to support professional athletes who have lost a substantial part of their income due to the suspension of international competition this year.

A working group was formed to oversee the distribution of the funds and it has now finalised the eligibility criteria and application process.

Those criteria and additional information is here.


Fighting words from Stefanidi ahead of Saturday's Ultimate Garden Challenge: 'I think we're going to beat the guys'

11:00 - 15 May
Nothing like a little competitive zest from reigning Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi to get the day going..


Thursday 14 May


Boslak: "Sport helped me to handle the COVID-19 crisis"

17:15 - 14 May
In this Olympic Channel feature, former French pole vault record holder and four-time Olympian Vanessa Boslak explains how her athletics career helped prepare her for her post-sporting career path which in recent months has lead her to helping COVID-19 patients recover.

Trained as a physiotherapist, Boslak works at a Paris clinic which specialised in cardiothoracic surgery.

This small establishment was not meant to treat COVID-19 patients but due to the extent of the outbreak in France, they had to transform and adapt their facilities. From 10 reanimation beds, they manage to set around 20 to treat COVID-19 patients.

As s a physiotherapist, Boslak ensures that her patients maintain a range of movement during reanimation.

"We move the patients to keep their articulation flexibility. If we let someone motionless for a couple of weeks, his or her articulations get stiffer and stiffer," she said.

Patients also need re-education when they wake up.

"When they wake up, they suffer from muscle weakness, called critical illness polyneuropathy. We help them to rediscover their muscular functions."

Sometimes, COVID-19 patients are so tired and weak that they can’t cough properly to get rid of mucus. Boslak helps them with that as well.

"Some patients are not suffering from respiratory failure but from extreme fatigue and we have to help them to get the secretions out thru some thoracic therapy."



RRCA releases runner attitude survey results

15:00 - 14 May
The “Return to Running and Group Runs” survey, released last Friday (8), gauged runners' attitudes in the US on what would make them feel comfortable enough to return to races and group runs as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.

10,634 people participated in the survey, including running club leaders, event directors, running club members, coaches, and sponsors. Responses came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The overall mood? Cautious optimism.

According to PodiumRunner, who summarised the findings, "Runners will forego the usual perks and swag they get at events in exchange for more hand sanitizer, but don’t ask them to wear masks."

“The overarching theme from the survey is that runners are concerned about the public health officials’ recommendations for physical distancing guidelines followed by their community’s infection/death rates and trends,” RRCA officials said.

Other key findings:

- When public-health officials give the greenlight, 60 percent of respondents are comfortable with running with five or fewer people, 51 percent with 10 or fewer runners. The percentage of comfort level drops significantly with 20 or more people. The RRCA recommends that club leaders make plans to break down organized group runs according to pace, day, or location.

- If public health officials lift restrictions, 53 percent of runners said they would participate in events in 2020—though 47 percent are unsure and 23 percent will not run in events this year.

- Good news: 90 percent of survey participants plan to run in a race in 2021.

Survey results and an analysis are on the RRCA website here.


The next Ultimate Garden Clash is on

12:00 - 14 May
And it's the women's pole vaulters turn.

Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi, two-time US indoor champion Katie Nageotte and Commonwealth Games champion Alysha Newman will face off from their respective home bases in Greece, the United States and Canada from 6-7pm CEST on Saturday (16) weather permitting.

In the inaugural Ultimate Garden Clash two weeks ago, male pole vaulters Mondo Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie and Sam Kendricks set the bar high by making a collective 98 clearances at 5.00m in 30 minutes, with Duplantis and Lavillenie tying for the win with 36 clearances each.

The women have agreed to set the bar at 4.00m (world record is 5.06m) for their challenge. They will be connected by video link from their local training facilities as none of the women have the necessary equipment in their own gardens as the men did.

The Clash will be streamed on the World Athletics YouTube channel, Twitter stream and Facebook page and will span three locations: Stefanidi will compete in Athens, Nageotte in Marietta, Georgia, and Newman in Bolton, Ontario.



Conrad: 'Now is the time for us to stand together as a running community and look after each other'

11:00 - 14 May
The perfect way to start the day.

South African distance runner Nolene Conrad reached out to Cape Town area runners via Facebook and Twitter, offering a helping hand to those in need.


Wednesday 13 May


Advice from solitary workers within athletics

23:20 - 13 May
For the not-insignificant percentage of people who already work from home as sole traders, freelancers or solitary workers, adapting to life in lockdown has generally not been too much of a challenge.

Race Results Weekly recently spoke to a range of people in such a position, including athlete representative Brendan Reilly, jewellery maker Erica Sara and coach Greg McMillan.

With no races for his athletes to compete in, Reilly’s workload has significantly reduced. His main focus is providing reassurance and practical advice to his clients.

“Obviously I am advising them not to overdo it on the training side, especially an athlete at the end of their career,” said Reilly, who manages two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat. “All of those races she wanted to do in July and August; they don't exist.”

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Sara’s business, meanwhile, appears to be in a solid position. “I thought there would be a more noticeable change,” said Sara, who makes necklaces with mantras given to her by the likes of Alysia Montaño, Deena Kastor, and Molly Huddle. “In the beginning there was a small little dip, but people want to help small business and keep us alive.”

McMillan, like his fellow solitary workers, says he always benefits from making time for a run each day.

“I think like everything else you have to experiment and find what works for you,” he said. “I encourage people to get set up. Treat it like your workplace. They should try to carve out some space.”

Full article


Lowe hopeful of reaching full fitness by 2021

20:20 - 13 May
For any athlete heading into 2020 short of their best form, the postponement of the Olympic Games was a welcome relief.

US high jumper Chaunte Lowe's set-back has been anything but minor. The 2005 world silver medallist was diagnosed last year with an aggressive form of breast cancer that required a double mastectomy and five months chemotherapy.

Lowe, a mother of three, finished fourth on countback at the 2016 Olympic Games, having cleared the same height as eventual winner Ruth Beitia. She last competed in 2017 but had resumed training last year in a bid to reach a fifth Olympic Games.

She will be 37 by the time of the 2021 Olympic Games, but she feels the extra time to prepare will outweigh any age disadvantage she may have.

Chaunte Lowe

"There’s no doubt about it," she told Reuters when asked if the new timeline improves her chances of once again making the US team. "But then at the same time you have to stay focused that much longer."

"Surprisingly, I feel great. "I'm to the point where I'm running times that I haven't run in years. I'm able to lift weights that I haven’t lifted in a long time. I'm starting to feel like myself."

Full article


Czech athletes prepare to get back on track

15:15 - 13 May
As part of the ‘Back on Track’ project in the Czech Republic, more than 165 athletics competitions will be held across the country, starting from 1 June.

Some of the leading Czech athletes will be in action that day at meetings in Kladno, Pilsen and Kolin, with all three of the competitions being shown on Czech TV. A live stream will also be available to viewers around the world.

“I am very glad that the athletics clubs have taken our challenge and thanks to our combined effort we have been able to significantly exceed our originally planned 100 athletics meetings,” said Czech Athletics Federation President Libor Varhaník. “I am excited that the Czech athletics family will be together at the start in such large numbers and we will open the competitive season. We are working hard to use this opportunity to show the strength, coherence and creativity of athletics.”

Tomas Stanek

Javelin world record-holder Babora Spotakova, world indoor shot put bronze medallist Tomas Stanek and three-time world indoor 400m champion Pavel Maslak are all set to appear in Kladno, competing in a way that falls in line with current government rules.

Spotakova will take on European silver medallist Nikola Ogrodnikova, 2017 European U20 champion Nikol Tabackova and two-time national champion Petra Andrejskova.

In the shot put, Stanek takes on two-time European indoor bronze medallist Ladislav Prasil, while Maslak will contest the 300m along with fellow 2017 European indoor 4x400m bronze medallists Jan Tesar and Patrik Sorm.

Field events will be the main focus in Pilsen, where 2016 world U20 champion Michaela Hruba will contest the high jump and three-time Olympic finalist Jan Kudlicka will compete in the pole vault. The highlight of the Kolin meeting is expected to be the men’s 1000m where national 800m champion Filip Snejdr takes on European Youth Olympic Festival winner Jakub Davidik.



Previous updates:

20-22 March | 23-25 March | 26-28 March | 29-31 March | 1-3 April | 4-8 April | 9-12 April | 13-17 April | 18-22 April | 23-28 April | 29 April - 3 May | 4-8 May | 9-13 May