We’re on the way out of whatever we’ll go on to call this bizarre time of our lives. A roadmap has been unfurled to lead us out of lockdown. We can dream of holidays, haircuts, and 2 for £5 Jägerbombs. I don’t want a Jägerbomb, but it would be nice to be able to make that mistake again. It is an important roadmap for runners beyond the intoxicating possibilities of future self-destruction, as it is our path to the sorely missed: racing, group training, and travelling to trails.
One of the upsides of not being able to do those things, besides a regenerated liver, is that I have been encouraged to look locally for new running routes, inspiration, and elevation. Perhaps as my long runs progressed I naturally would have sought out roads and trails which could sustain larger loops anyway, but I would say that the reason my long runs have lengthened is because of the restrictions on training/racing.
Peak fitness, which is to say speed, can only be sustained for a limited amount of time, and without any racing to situate these peaks around, and no track training on which to fine tune said peaks, there hasn’t been much point in sharpening swords. Instead it has been a time to collect iron and, to drop these spiralling metaphors, it has been a time to run longer and build a bigger base.
With this, I have come to appreciate an aspect of running that I hadn’t really thought about before.
Fitness is corroborated with speed, but that isn’t necessarily what fitness means. It can mean speed, but it can also mean endurance, resilience, and adaptability; three key traits which will help you reach the sticky plastic bottom of your first Jägerbomb back. And, lately, I’ve found that increased fitness also means increased freedom. The fitter I get the more I am able to explore the world about me on my own two feet. I approach new trails with confidence, knowing that no matter what surface I encounter I’ve done my time and can take it, even if the going gets rough. On the road, when things are more predictable, I have been able to look at a turning and think where does that go? And then go find out. Certainly I could have done that before, but without the confidence which comes with having running for 2 hours, 17 miles, or over 1200ft of elevation, I wouldn’t.
Now races are on the way back, and speed work is back in the mix, because I do want to race, and I would quite like to race quickly. Still, the priority is that I maintain my health and fitness (I’ll assess the Jägerbomb sitatuion accordingly) which is allowing me more freedom than what I first imagined when I heard that we were heading into a lockdown all those (one) years ago. Keep that going, and I will be able to race, explore, and train in all those places I’ve been dreaming about going since we were offered that sweet slice of freedom in our naive 2020 summer.
If I have to sacrifice a few seconds of speed to sustain that freedom, so be it.