A few weeks ago, Madhav Bhat, of Greenville, South Carolina, hiked the Rainbow Falls trail in South Carolina with some friends. And given the current state of ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 18-year-old wore a mask, despite the hot, muggy summer temperatures.
He donned the mask not only for himself, but for his family while he was out on the trails.
“People, especially my generation—teenagers—don’t care too much about the coronavirus because they think they’re invincible,” Bhat told Runner’s World. “At home, I live with my grandma, and she’s immunocompromised. If I get it, it would be a big deal for them or for my friends whose parents are more susceptible.”
Bhat, who has run cross country and track since middle school, handled the strenuous hike while wearing a mask well. But he wondered if it would be any more difficult to run with a mask. This made him think about the time that Galen Rupp won the 10k at the 2011 U.S. Track & Field Championships while wearing a mask for allergies.
After some brainstorming, he came up with a social media challenge he hoped would inspire people to wear masks: the #MaskedMile. To participate, all you have to do is put on a mask or some sort of facial covering, run (and record) a mile while wearing your mask, and post about it on social media using the hashtag.
Accompanied by two friends, Bhat ran his mile on July 9, proving to himself that wearing a mask would not hinder his breathing, even while giving a hard effort in 95-degree heat.
“I hadn’t been running as much for two months, and I was still within 20 seconds of my mile PR (4:48) in super hot conditions,” he said. “I think this can prove to people that wearing a mask is not as big a health risk as people think and hopefully it encourages it on a national scale.”
His post has bounced around the internet, inspiring #MaskedMiles all over the country in places like California, Chicago, and New Jersey. He even saw a post in Mexico.
Though he has received some pushback from people who are against wearing masks, he said the responses have been mostly positive. All he hopes is that it encourages people to wear a mask and to do their part in helping end the pandemic in the U.S.
“If I can run a mile in a mask at a pretty solid pace, other people can wear it to the grocery store, the beach, or wherever they go,” Bhat said. “And people doing the challenge are running three miles, six miles, walking, running, biking. It’s cool to see people putting their own twist on it. It makes me excited to see where it’s going.”
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