Running in Lockdown

I last posted here in mid-March, and in the relatively short time since then the world has changed beyond recognition. At that time I’d just run the Golden Fleece Circuit as part of my preparation for the Highland Fling race, my main target for spring. Not long afterwards we were in lockdown and everything was cancelled. One by one the events I was planning to take part in over the spring and summer fell like dominos: the Daffodil Dash, the Helmsley 10K, the Vale of York 10, the York & District clubs summer 10K league, the Fling, the Windermere Marathon, Race to the Castle, Endure 24… right up until July. I don’t have anything in the diary until the Hardmoors Farndale Marathon in August now. But who knows whether life will be back to anything approaching normal even by then? It was all totally understandable, but so disappointing.

Look, I realise this is very much a first world problem and I have such a lot to be grateful for. As far as I know I’m healthy, and so are all my loved ones. I’m still working (mostly from home) and not being laid off or furloughed. As a self-employed landscaper, my husband is struggling to work at the moment, but we can manage. I have friends in foreign countries who are properly locked down and not even able to leave the house at the moment, but we can still take our state-sanctioned outdoor exercise every day (thank God!). And yet… I found that not being able to run where I like, or run with other people, or take part in any events left a big hole in my life. Running makes a massive difference to my mental wellbeing, and I know that many other people feel the same.

So when we found ourselves in lockdown I was properly fed up to start with. It was a couple of weeks before Endure was cancelled, so at first I re-jigged my training schedule to lead up to that; even though I knew it probably wouldn’t happen I pretended it would to try and stay motivated. But deep down I felt there was no point doing any training, because what was I even training for? I was also eating too much cake and drinking too much wine, which made me not sleep very well, and that certainly didn’t help my mood. Something clearly had to change before I couldn’t fit into my clothes. So I decided to do something I’ve never done before – train for a 10K! This may sound surprising, as I’ve run many 10Ks in the past; but I’ve never specifically trained for one before. I’ve always done them just for fun.

Years ago, when I started taking running a bit more seriously than just jogging to lose half a stone (my original goal!) I had three road times that I thought I’d like to achieve; a sub four hour marathon, a sub 1:50 half and a sub 50 minute 10K. I managed to achieve the first two, but never the last. The closest I came was 50:26 at the Leeds Abbey Dash in 2016. After that I started doing mostly ultra training, so not much speed work. As I can’t really do long or hilly runs at the moment, improving my pace is at least something I can focus on. The Leeds 10K in July isn’t cancelled yet, so I might even enter that if it goes ahead. I doubt I’ll ever break 50 minutes now, but hey ho, I’ll have a go! So I’m doing a couple of speed sessions a week from a sub 50 10K plan I found on the UK Athletics website and I feel a lot better for having a new goal. We have an airfield in our village with a public footpath alongside it, which has a perfect flat, Tarmac surface for intervals – almost like a track!

I’m still doing a longer run at the weekend, and I’m really enjoying discovering local trail routes I never knew about until I recently bought an Ordnance Survey Explorer map of our area. I’m also improving my map reading skills, which are pretty much non-existent!

The other thing that’s been keeping me going is that the instructor at my regular circuit training group, Liam from Courage Fitness, has been sending us home workouts via WhatsApp twice a week. These are really good (very testing!), and at the end of each one we have a challenge to do, for which we get points and have a league table to keep us entertained. At the moment I’m surprised to be in second place. Apparently I’m not brilliant at anything, but am consistently average! So with extra strength training and more cake (but less wine now), I’ll probably come out of lockdown fatter but fitter. Also, unable to see where I’m going as I can’t get a haircut!

Hope everyone is coping OK with the restrictions. Hopefully things will start to regain some sort of normality by summer. Stay strong, folks!

(Rainbow courtesy of my friend Nicola!)