Nature is apolitical, caring not a whit which party assumes office on January 20, 2021. But that’s not to say Nature isn’t involved in Tuesday’s coming competition at all. Quite the opposite; she remains a menacing, intrusive presence via Covid-19. Yes, there are many other issues to consider, but perhaps none quite so consequential to so many people.

For many millennia, germs and infections did the job of regulating the human population quite well. It wasn’t until Louis Pasteur published his germ-theory in 1861, which proved that bacteria caused diseases, that modern medicine developed antibiotics and instituted hygienic practices that lifted the veil and eventually led to the expansion of both our population and life expectancy. 

At the end of the 19th century (world population: 1.6 billion), 30% of all deaths were due to infection. By the end of the 20th century (world population: 6.1 billion), the figure had fallen to less than 4%. In 1900, age expectancy at birth worldwide was 31 years. In 2020, the figure stands at 72.63 years.

But having flipped the field through science, we see that Nature is once again on the hunt as we turn away from the expertise that allowed us to flourish over the last 150 years. 

“People are tired of Covid. I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying ‘whatever. Just leave us alone’. They’re tired of it.” Thus spoke President Trump on a campaign call on 19 October 2020.

Being tired of a disease is like being tired of the humidity in August. It’s not something that you can get rid of by being tired of it as if feelings regulated weather or a pathogen.

But as opposed to humidity in August, you can do something about a pandemic by being mindful of the mitigating steps which will stem its spread as other countries have done. But that requires leadership and trust.

In our own field of interest, we have seen how foot races have recently been staged successfully in small, crowd-restricting productions like the Elite-only London Marathon and the two record-breaking distance track races in Valencia, Spain. It is the mass participation event, the big-city races, that mirror the overpopulation crisis that has fallen victim to Covid’s presence. 

Ironic, isn’t it, that a sport that offers so many benefits to so many individuals physically and psychologically is at the same time a potential threat to its participants when conducted en masse in the time of an airborne Coronavirus.  As such, the events themselves have become threatened by our individual need to remain socially distanced from one another. 

The Boston Athletic Association just announced this week that they, like the Tokyo and London Marathons before them, are postponing the mass-participation edition of the 2021 Boston Marathon, at least until the fall. In other words, depending on the availability of a widespread vaccine for Covid-19, the 2021 Boston Marathon may very well turn virtual, as the 2020 edition did. That is 125 years of history-changing in a blink. 

Nature may not be political, but she remains very much a player, even as we have a science denier running for re-election in the White House telling us not to worry about or be intimidated by Covid-19. 

“I had it, and I’m still here,” he says defiantly to thousands of mask-less supporters in high-contagion states who would not receive the same level of medical care that he did, or perhaps any medical care if he retains his office. 

An apprentice political leader telling people not to worry about a novel coronavirus like Covid-19 while his medical advisors (and the rising death count) suggest otherwise is like him telling a pro running coach’s athletes “it’s an individual choice whether you need speed work, hills, or tempos (wear a mask, social distance, or wash your hands). It’s all going to be fine on race day. We are turning the corner on your fitness. I’m the greatest coach you’ve ever had.” 

Yeah, well, maybe so. In any case, November 3rd will be a race-day to remember, regardless of the outcome.

Caveat emptor.


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