Mad Minute

PARIS (AP) — In the age of confinement, Elisha Nochomovitz figured out a way to run a marathon anyway – back and forth on his balcony.

That’s right. He ran 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) straight, never leaving his 7-meter-long (23-foot) balcony.

He saw it as a physical and mental challenge, but he also shared the images online as a way “to extend my support to the entire medical personnel who are doing an exceptional job,” he told The Associated Press from his apartment in Balma, a suburb of the southern French city of Toulouse.

Like athletes who ran around their Wuhan apartments or cyclists who found ways to train in their locked-down Abu Dhabi hotel rooms, Nochomovitz wanted to show others that it’s possible to stay fit as virus containment measures tighten around the world.

He also wanted to lighten the mood. “It was about launching a bit of a crazy challenge and bringing a bit of humor, to de-dramatize the confinement situation,” he said.

He didn’t exactly make record time. It took him six hours and 48 minutes.

He got nauseous, and got worried the neighbors would complain about the pounding of his footsteps.

But he did it.

Technically the French authorities still allow people to go outside for “individual sports” like running, if they sign a special form explaining why.

But the number of joggers in French streets has multiplied in recent days, amid exceptionally balmy weather. And that has authorities worried that too many people are still out in the streets, threatening efforts to contain the virus.

“If everyone thinks the same way and does the same thing, we’ll all find ourselves outside and that won’t help anything, and the message that we need to stay confined at home will have had no impact,” he said.

Nochomovitz had been training for a marathon, and said “I needed to assure myself that I could still run 40 kilometers whatever the condition.”

He lost track of how many laps he did, but his pedometer kept track while his mind wandered.

“I thought about many things, what’s going to happen, when I see that the world has stopped, sports, economy, finance,” he said. “We learned in history about wars between nations, men and weapons, but this is something that is beyond us.”

He especially thought about medics, “the real everyday heroes.”

And he had a key helper. “I had my girlfriend here who was giving me drinks and M&Ms.”

Outside, some onlookers stared in confusion.

And his neighbors? “They were very understanding.”


March 23 (UPI) -- A New York state family was able to use social media to reunite a woman with her plastic locket and a photo inside that she dropped on a beach several years ago.

Joy Schlitz said her 7-year-old son, Griffin, found the locket and family photo inside on Sunday while they were walking on Pike's Beach in the Westhampton Dunes, located on Long Island about 70 miles east of downtown Manhattan.

"He just stumbled upon it in the sand and said he knew it would be 'respectful and nice'" to return the locket, Schlitz told Patch.

Schlitz posted a photo of the find on Facebook, and it was recognized as the Dawydiak family a short time later.

Paula Dawydiak contacted Schlitz and explained she'd lost the locket years ago.

"I am a nurse at Stony Brook and I can't stop thinking about my family at this time. I would love to get it back if possible," Dawydiak wrote in a message to Schlitz.

She added that getting the locket back is especially significant now because the photo was taken just before her oldest daughter, Christi, moved to Boston for a new job. She said Christi is not able to make her usual Easter visit home due to the coronavirus epidemic.

"It's great to know that somebody found this, thought that it belongs to a family -- and took extra measures to get it back to us," Dawydiak said.


March 23 (UPI) -- An Australian dog who went missing when a storm damaged a fence was found two years later while wandering 136 miles from home with a pair of new puppies.

Graham Lee of Nowra, New South Wales, told Bega Valley Shire Council officials three of his four huskies went missing two years ago when a storm took down a fence at his home.

Lee said two of the dogs were soon recovered thanks to their microchips, but one husky, Indie, remained elusive.

"Initially I thought she would turn up, like the others did. I kept going to the pound, but after a few weeks of no word, I thought she must have been hit by a car," he said.

There was no sign of Indie until two years later, when a resident in Bermagui, 136 miles away, found the dog wandering loose with her two young puppies.

The resident alerted the Bega Valley Shire Council, and a council ranger rounded up the canines.

The council scanned Indie for a microchip and called Lee, who said he was shocked to hear news of the husky after so much time.

"When I first got the call I was like, 'What?' I'd almost forgotten about her," Lee said.

He said Indie is settling in well back at home.

"It's great she's back home. I think if you get one dog you should have another so at least they have each other to talk to and play with," he said. "She's happy but not quite herself. She roams to the fence, has a bit of a sulk, then is happy enough running around."

Indie's puppies are being rehomed through the Animal Welfare League, the council said.

Officials said they are baffled as to how Indie ended up so far away from home.


March 23 (UPI) -- A New York couple practiced safe social distancing during their outdoor wedding by having the ceremony officiated by a friend from the window of his fourth floor apartment.

Reilly Jennings and Amanda Wheeler said they decided to move up their wedding, which was originally scheduled for October, due to fears the coronavirus crisis could worsen, so they procured a marriage license Thursday from the New York City Marriage Bureau with the intention of returning the following day for the ceremony.

The couple found their plans foiled Friday when Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the bureau closed indefinitely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jennings and Wheeler elicited the help of friend Matt Wilson, a licensed marriage officiant, and held their wedding on the street outside of Wilson's apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

Wheeler officiated the ceremony by leaning out the window of his apartment and shouting to the couple, who were on the street below.

"After a somber afternoon, one of our friends texted us on a group chat, letting us know he was ordained by the county clerk of New York and could do it," Jennings told CNN.

"We texted, 'Wanna marry us outside your window in the next 24hrs?' and he said 'YES!' To that I replied, 'How about in 90 minutes?' We both finished up work meetings, got dressed, picked up some flowers, and headed to his apartment around the corner," she said.

Jennings said the wedding was "the most New York moment ever."


March 23 (UPI) -- A California resident's doorbell camera was recording when a package was swiped from their front porch by an unusual thief -- a bear.

The video, recorded Thursday on the front porch of a Crestview home, shows a bear grabbing a large box with its mouth and dragging it away.

The resident who shared the Ring camera footage said the box contained 40 pounds of dog food. They said some of the dog food was recovered.

"The delivery guy dropped the package off at our doorstep with a 40lb bag of dog food and then 20 minutes later our local teenage bear stole the box from our front porch proceeded to open the box and eat half the bag of dog food," the resident wrote.


Vienna (AFP) - The Austrian village of Sankt Corona am Wechsel may need to rethink its tourism campaign, its mayor said Monday after the new coronavirus pandemic has drawn some unwanted attention.

"At first we smiled to see a virus named like the village appear, but jokes have stopped since the epidemic became so serious," said mayor Michael Gruber.

Ecotourism is the main source of revenue for the village of some 400 people lying some 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Vienna at the foot of the Alps.

"We'll probably have to find a new name for... our mascot to welcome tourists," Gruber told AFP.

The mascot, named "Corona", is an ant sporting traditional garb, featured on pamphlets and other information for tourists.

Attractions in the village named after the Catholic saint Corona include summer sledding and mountain biking.

Austria has recorded more than 3,900 cases of the new coronavirus so far, with 21 deaths.

The country of some nine million people has passed strict measures to limit movements to fight the spread of the virus.


MOSCOW, March 23 (Reuters) - Usually it's the artists for whom a solo is the ultimate prize. Now it is the audience.

Starting this month, Russia's Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre will stream its performances online and allow just one spectator in the theater to watch in person.

Called "One-On-One," the project is designed to create a new kind of interaction with the public at a time when a growing number of coronavirus cases are limiting outings and gatherings.

"We are ready to hold performances for one person because in the end ... one spectator has the same value as a full house," Marat Gatsalov, the theater's principal stage director, said in a statement.

The theater, located in Perm, an industrial city 1,100 km (680 miles) east of Moscow, said it would shortly be accepting applications for those wanting to attend the performances alone.

It said that one of the performers would choose thespectator in a draw, but that the chosen person would need to be screened by a doctor before entering the theater.

Russia has so far recorded 438 cases of the virus, as well as one coronavirus-related death.

The authorities have barred foreign nationals from entering the country until May in an effort to stop the coronavirus from spreading further, and have canceled or heavily restricted public gatherings.


March 23 (UPI) -- Police in Georgia said officers wrangled a loose pig that showed "an obvious lack of respect for both personal space and social distancing" by wandering into a resident's garage.

The Brookhaven Police Department said officers were summoned Sunday to the Osbourne Road area on a report of "a pig inside someone's garage, showing an obvious lack of respect for both personal space and social distancing."

Police said the pig had left the garage and was wandering down the road when officers arrived.

The officers were able to entice the pig with some snacks and "lassoed" the animal.

Police said a resident posted a picture of the pig on the NextDoor app and were able to locate the owners of the animal, which turned out to be named Bacon.

Bacon was safely returned home, police said.


March 20 (UPI) -- A truck went off the highway in Texas and overturned on the median, spilling 40,000 pounds of Gatorade.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the driver, who suffered only minor cuts, accidentally went off the roadway early Friday morning on Interstate 45 in Willis.

The truck rolled onto its side, causing it to spill some of its load of 40,000 pounds of bottled Gatorade.

The DPS said several lanes of the highway were closed while crews worked to clean up the scene.


(Sky News) A vicar was left red-faced after accidentally setting his arm on fire while recording a virtual sermon.

Reverend Stephen Beach was performing the service online as people across the UK stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

In the video, the vicar of St Budeaux Parish Church in Plymouth had his jumper set on fire as he leaned over a some candles, prompting him to calmly exclaim: "Oh dear, I just caught fire."

The 61-year-old luckily wasn't harmed in the incident.

He said: "I just felt my arm getting a bit hot. The nice thing is, it did damage my pullover and my shirt but my arm is fine - there's no burn on my arm."

Both the Church of England and Church of Scotland have now banned mass worship and will be leading services on social media platforms such as Facebook because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catholic churches are also encouraging people to maintain social distance and stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.

Mr Beach was filming the last part of his online sermon when the incident took place but admitted that he had never recorded himself before.

He added: "The whole thing is a bit surreal - there's never been a time where we've deliberately not gone to Sunday worship, so that's very strange.

"I've never phoned so many people really, because normally you go and visit people.

Since the accident, Mr Beach said he had other vicars joke about "being on fire for Jesus".

"People have laughed and laughed, really," he said.