- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

All the frenzy about the latest flu outbreak reminds me of October 2002, when the D.C. area was in the grips of the Beltway snipers - always running and looking over my shoulder, wondering if I would be hit.

Even USA Track & Field has gotten into the action of the H1N1 flu virus, forwarding an e-mail last week from John Reasoner, medical director for the United States Olympic Committee.

“The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person by respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes,” he wrote. “An infected person’s cough or sneeze droplets are propelled through the air and deposited on people nearby. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose. So wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face!”

“As with any disease, the key is to not become infected.”

Then Reasoner gave the usual tips, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands often with soap and water.

Precautions are being taken all around the nation, including serious responses such as canceling school classes and sporting events for the next couple of weeks. This is reminiscent of the reaction in recent years to avian flu, specifically H5N1, when travelers canceled trips to China and other parts of the world.

Even Team Kanebo of Japan, the squad of Berlin World Championships men’s marathon team member Satoshi Irifune, was so concerned about the outbreaks that its officials canceled its planned appearance at Saturday’s Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational track and field meet at Stanford.

The best way to minimize your chances of getting infected may be to avoid crowds. That includes road races and track meets, where athletes are in close contact, huffing and puffing on one another and wiping sweat from their face. Spectators should beware, too.

Do you have any idea if the person who hands you a cup of fluid at a midrace water stop has been exposed to the virus?

I think I’ll continue my quiet, solitary runs in the park for a while.

Beyond Goofy - The January Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon honors athletes with the “Goofy medal.” To earn this dubious distinction, a runner must participate in half marathon followed by a full marathon the next day.

Arlington’s Michael Wardian has signed up for Sunday’s sixth annual Potomac River Run Marathon & Half Marathon in search of the Goofy award of his own.

“So, I found something fun to do on Sunday,” Wardian e-mailed Friday. “I am going to try and win a half marathon and full marathon back to back. I will start the half marathon at 5:30 a.m. and then come back and try and win the full marathon at 7:00 a.m. and be back home before lunch and on dad duty.”

This was made possible by some new rules from the National Park Service, which overseas Belle Haven Park in Alexandria and the Mount Vernon Bicycle trail, according to race director Jay Wind. There will be no more mass starts, Wind said, so runners can line up and go anytime they want after the timing system is set in place by 5:30 a.m.

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