F.M., 40, an ultra-marathoner in Piracicaba, Brazil

The Olympics have been postponed. With or without irony, that is the second time this has happened to Japan, which was supposed to host the games in 1940. The first time around, the games were cancelled because of World War 2, something that would happen again in 1944. Rewind a little bit, and in 1916 the First World War had forced the cancellation of the games, and those were the only times modernity had this experience. Now we are witnessing the fourth time. In an unprecedented move, the IOC transferred the games to 2021. The decision causes an economic impact impossible to be assessed by a simple individual in the Alto neighborhood of Piracicaba, in the inland region of São Paulo state.

Moving from Japan to Piracicaba, the economic impact caused by the postponements and cancellations is lesser, even though, irony of ironies, sometimes the lesser can be greater: whereas the IOC and all the business surrounding the Olympics are losing millions, billions, the sports companies of the paulista interior are losing on a much smaller scale that nevertheless might cost them their existence. Chelso, perhaps the largest one in the Piracicaba region and environs, puts together a different event practically every weekend, from the Inland Triathlon Cup to 6k night runs and the Campinas half-marathon. Not by chance, Chelso got together with other companies in the industry and created a campaign to encourage people to keep registering for runs. The problem is that we are not certain that those runs will indeed happen, including the ones that we had already registered for and had been postponed to the second semester.

In the midst of all of this, there is the runner, not knowing what to do. In the first two weeks of the quarantine, I tried to exercise at home, went for runs around the terrace of my apartment building. I didn’t give in to the trend of running inside the house— a kind of madness that increases the risk of getting hurt. In the third week, I started to run out on the street. I am lucky to live in a mid-size, smallish city (at least for Brazilian standards), so I can go without having much contact with others. I’ve also been running on interstate freeways, which I can access easily.

It is pointless to take these practices for preparation for a competition, because the competition doesn’t currently exist. To use the sportsman lingo, what I can do is maintenance work, that is to say, I can try to avoid losing the physical conditioning so as not to hamper an eventual preparation for a specific competition. As Florian Reus, winner of both the 24h world championship and the Sparathlon in 2015, said in social media: this is the time to run because we love to run, and not because we want to obtain results in competitions. And he asks: do we love to run, or do we only think about results?

Eating habits have also become a challenge, because the diet typically follows the various cycles of the sports season. Dietary restrictions during the months of preparation for an important run are not the same as in a period without runs. In addition to the psychological factor, it is important for the body to have this “balance,” because it is beneficial to relax and tone things down a bit. But how are we going to do this now? The quarantine has no end date in sight, and the competitions have not been scheduled. I have been like a pendulum swinging from a balanced diet to the utmost dietary absurdity. Luckily I have been able to space out the absurd days, in which I end up eating too many sweets.

I was never an adept of carpe diem, but the contingency of our situation seems to be pushing such an attitude upon us. And it is in this new rhythm that we have to reorder our lives. At least I am reordering, or trying to reorder, mine. In Piracicaba, in the inland region of São Paulo state, where I moved less than two months ago. A small world, but the world within this small world is a world that exists.

[submitted on 4/13/2020]

Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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