Reflections on Running through Lockdown.

When lockdown restrictions were first put in place in March, I assumed that my work would be deemed non-essential and I’d be off. This did not happen. In fact, what happened was that I ended up working more than usual. Things have now calmed somewhat. The country is attempting (perhaps prematurely, but time will time) to return to whatever semblance of normality that we can manage. 

But in those first few days post the lockdown announcement, things were strange. The streets, the roads, the shop, were all ghostly. And somewhere amongst the madness of those weird days I thought:

 ‘Well, at least I’ve got running.’

Whereas I think a lot of other people around the country, and around the world, started running (or just working out in general) because they couldn’t go to work, I picked things up to relieve the stress of still going. 

The first thing I did was to start amping up the mileage. Without races, and without track training, I thought this would be a sensible way to improve my fitness, without pushing my body in the anaerobic, intensive way that track intervals do. Even whilst I was working more than ever, I still found that I had plenty of extra time, what with our social lives being completely destroyed and all. With that time, on top of that extra mileage, came the cross training.

What I had was training philosophy revolving around two simple principles:

  1. Run a bit more.
  1. Do some exercises to make my body stronger. 

With this philosophy, I felt my body and mind relax into the new situation. Through my training I was able to bring it all into focus. The foggy confusion of the lockdown world melted away, and I was left looking at clear, blue skies.

Although it’s nice to look on the bright side of things, I don’t think it’s right to claim that the pandemic has really been a blessing in disguise, or anything close to that. It’s the sort of blasè thing we can only really say if the most the virus has affected us has been that it kept us off work, or, like me, changed our working environment. Those basic difficulties can cause genuine struggles, but for those working on the real front lines, those in care homes, in hospitals, and for those who have lost loved ones, this whole thing has been a nightmare, and the repercussions of it have barely even begun to take effect. It’s naive for any of us to claim otherwise. 

We all have to deal with things in our own ways though, and I dealt with it by training, and training as consistently and simply as possible. It’s kept me positive, kept me moving, and, as I take a moment to reflect, I can see that it has delivered results.

Pre-lockdown my 5k PB was 18:24 (in a parkrun). About a month into the lockdown I ran an 18:06 (solo). Last week I ran a 17:40 (also solo). Running is about way more than numbers, but they can be used to paint a picture. 

The 17:40 represents a peak. I’m currently taking a couple of weeks of lower mileage, with some extra full rest days, to try and recover from the last 3 months of gradually increasing volume and intensity. 

Just before the 17:40, I ran a 60 minute relay leg in a virtual replication of a local event (pictures below). It’s hard to say how close I came to replicating what my performance would have been in a competitive race, but fair to say I was pretty wiped by the end of it.

So, even in lockdown, I’ve managed to test my peak fitness…

The question is then, what next? I rest and then…what?

Team training will return, that has been confirmed. And the natural follow up to the return of team training is racing. 

It feels strange to think about. I’ve come so far without racing, but I still find myself craving that competition, that start/finish line thrill. Now it’s getting to a point where it might be worth thinking about, planning for. Can I successfully reflect my pandemic progress, where there has been no external pressure on my training, but plenty on everything else, in a situation where the pressure to perform (to whatever relatively arbitrary goal that I give myself) is more tangible? 

I don’t know. In time I’ll find out, and that’s exciting. But for now I have to rest. Two weeks of gentle running, and a bit of return to the gym. Maybe I’ll chuck in a couple of hills, just to keep things ticking over. And then I’ll hit the reset button and begin a new block of training. I’ll be free from the restrictions of lockdown, but I don’t think my philosophy will change. 

I’ll simply run a bit more, and do some exercises which make my body stronger. 

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