Wear a mask to prevent facial recognition!

(Plus a guide to the best ones for Runners)

Did I get your attention? Are you wearing a mask when you leave your house? In an announcement early this week, “U.S. CDC head says mask-wearing could get COVID-19 under control within 4-8 weeks.” (2020, July 14 from Reuters Health News, read the full text HERE).

Additionally, 23 states and the District of Columbia now have state-mandated mask policies (as of this writing those include CA, CT, DE, DC, IL, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OR, PA, RI, TX, VA, WA, WV). Google your state for the specifics that apply to you. Illinois, where I currently reside, has such a policy. 

In case there was any question, this is what it says (see full document HERE – bold CAPS below are mine for emphasis):

“Everyone over the age of 2 who can medically tolerate a face covering over their nose and mouth MUST WEAR ONE IN A PUBLIC PLACE when unable to maintain a safe distance (6 feet) from others.”

Some people I’ve encountered seem to think masks are not required outdoors. This is not the case. Are there times, when you don’t have to wear a mask? Yes…

“Those who are staying home and have no close contacts that are infected with COVID-19 don’t need a mask while at home. PROVIDED YOU DO SO ALONE OR WITH CLOSE, HOUSEHOLD CONTACTS, other situations that don’t require a mask or face covering include running or walking IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, mowing the lawn, performing spring yard cleanup, gardening, driveway car washing, and other outdoor activities ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY. Nevertheless we must be intentional about avoiding crowds and social distancing so we can enjoy physical connections later.”

When the re-opening of the Chicago Lakefront was announced last month, the Chicago Park District simple stated, “FACE COVERINGS ARE REQUIRED AT ALL TIMES.” (See full announcement HERE). 

So, what’s keeping you from joining the mask crowd? I get it, wearing one makes running more difficult and slows you down. I’m looking at it like altitude training – just imagine how fast we’ll be when the masks come off! And there are no real, competitive races now anyway, so why the hurry? Enjoy the scenery. 

Regarding other activities, personally, I have not found walking or even biking to be uncomfortable with a mask 100% of the time. On the bike, I’ve also found a bonus: the mask does wonders to keep me from ingesting bugs and allergens!

If finding the right mask for the right situation has been an issue, allow me to share my research. It took some trial an error to find a mask for running. Like with all running apparel, you want to stay away from cotton and choose instead a moisture wicking fabric. Here are the best I could find:

My #1 choice: Zensah. ($16) Kurt and I run in them pretty much exclusively and the staff at the Chicago Area Runner’s Association (CARA) wear-tested and recommend them as well. They have over the head elastic so they are easy to push up and down as needed without requiring you to fully remove it and then carry. The sizing seems very flexible as I’ve yet to find someone who didn’t like the fit. They come in a variety of colors and can be ordered HERE.

Zensah masks. North Avenue Beach. Chicago, Illinois. July 2020

I also have a couple from Boco Gear ($12), which I believe Fleet Feet might sell in their stores (Fleet Feet branded ones can also be ordered online HERE). They come in a variety of styles/colors which can be ordered directly from Boco. These come in some really fashionable designs, I find them to be a little too big for my face for running and also prefer the around the head elastic straps (of the Zensah) to the around the ears which this has. But still great!

Novo Mask. Vernon Hills, Illinois. July 2020.

InkNBurn ($25) also makes some really stylish masks with the needed breathability – and matching apparel!! They run even bigger than the Bocas, however. I save my InkNBurns for special occasions.

InkNBurn Mask. On the road. Lake County, Illinois. June 2020.

Another is the Buff Filter Mask ($30)  which I haven’t tried yet, but I found some who has. Greg Hipp, Executive Director, CARA says, “It is the best fit, and most breathable of the ones I have worn. I’ve not inserted the filter yet though, but for running, I feel comfortable without. I use a thicker mask for non-running, like going to the grocery store.” The Buff Filter Mask is made of moisture-wicking fabric, and has straps for the neck and head, rather than ear straps. One appealing feature this one has over the Zensah is the adjustable strap which provides a more secure fit. 

Any of those four are going to have the breathability needed for a workout. Fleet Feet also offers a selection of performance masks and gators which can be found HERE. I used gators and buffs when the weather was still cool, but found it too hot to have that much material around my neck as soon as it got warm.

I’ve also tried the following, but they are cotton and best left for other outings:

Threadless ($12-17). Chicago-based company. I found this to fit me the best of any mask I’ve tried. They come in an amazing selection of styles and colors too!

Ghost Circus Apparel ($14-25). These fit nice and secure with elastic all around which allows for more space for mouth and nose (and breathability!). For me, this runs a close second for an every-day mask.

Ghost Circle Apparel Mask.

Dearborn Denim ($10) Chicago-based company. Limited selection. I liked how the ties allowed for a custom fit. They’re heavy though and I found them to be much more comfortable when the weather was cooler.

Blade + Blue ($24.50). The ear-straps are a little wide on these, for me. They do come in a really nice variety of patterns that you can probably find one to match every outfit. They are also a good (light!) summer mask to complement the heavier Dearborn Denim in your mask collection.

Now you have a full collection of masks and no excuse not to wear one. Kind of like underwear, change them daily. Use for one workout and put in the wash. All of these are machine washable. I’ve thrown them all in the dryer too to burn off any remaining germs. 

If the authorities decide to start enforcing mask policies, it will be super easy for them to do so through facial recognition. So why not just start wearing a mask? In addition to protecting yourself, you can also be neighborly. If you’re running on the Chicago Lakefront, you can help assure it’s stays open! Come on, we’re all in this together! We’re only going to get out of it together, too.

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