Runners are fortunate to enjoy a hobby that’s hardly been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Besides the lack of local 5Ks and other road races to sign up for, not much has changed for those who go on runs outdoors. Miles can still be logged on the same trails and routes where they were recorded this time last year.

But do runners need to adapt to the current health crisis and fasten a mask after they’re done lacing up their shoes? It’s better to be safe than sorry, but it appears masks are not necessary 100% of the time.

Just as masks are required at grocery stores, gas stations and other essential businesses where members of the public come into close contact, the state Department of Health also encourages Pennsylvanians to wear a mask or protective garment covering their nose and mouth whenever stepping outside.

“If a person will be making contact with people, we would encourage them to wear (a mask) to limit the spread of their germs and further protect the people in their community,” said Maggi Mumma, the state Department of Health’s deputy press secretary.

That would seem to indicate that it’s wise to wear a mask when running through a busy section of town or on a crowded path, for example.

When you’re running alone and away from others, though, masks wouldn’t be serving their intended purpose. As state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has said: “My mask protects you; your mask protects me.”

“However, if someone plans to run in an open area with little to no interaction with people,” Mumma continued, “they would not need a mask.”

Of course, it’s hard to be certain that a runner won’t encounter anyone else. A mask is an easy precaution to take just in case.

A few other easy social distancing measures can be taken to limit a pedestrian’s proximity to others.

Staying at least 6 feet clear of anyone else is an effective way to mitigate risk. If that isn’t possible, Mumma said runners can cross the street to avoid running directly past each other. They can also wait until someone passes by before continuing on their route.

With those simple steps in mind, just about anyone can continue to go on the same walks, runs and hikes as they always have as warmer weather reaches the area.

“Pennsylvanians are encouraged to enjoy permitted outdoor recreational activities within their community and avoid crowded popular destinations,” Mumma said.

Some places to hit the ground running

Here are a few places in NEPA where you can log some miles:

  • The Luzerne County Levee Trail, which runs from Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre, underneath the Market and North Street bridges, behind the Kingston Recreation Center and past Church Street Park in Kingston. Another couple of miles span from behind the Forty Fort soccer fields to the other side of the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming.
  • The Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, which cuts through Scranton and has multiple trailheads, including one with parking off Olive Street near Scranton High School. Lake Scranton is surrounded by a 3.5-mile loop through the woods.
  • Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails offers several miles of path through the woods just outside Hazleton.
  • In Schuylkill County, the Bartram Trail area outside of Landingville and Schuylkill Haven’s Island Park has a good trail for walking/running. The State Game Lands road/trail from Berne Drive outside Schuylkill Haven to Landingville is good for running.