Welcome to our new blog series, catching up with runners as we navigate this weird time in the UK. With no races on the calendar for the foreseeable and a need to retain social distancing measures (ruling out group runs, parkrun and club training), things are a little different for runners right now. Introducing The COVID Diaries: Running in the time of coronavirus.
Imi Testa (and Murphy)
Running in lockdown has had more ups and downs than a White Star Running marathon. It’s definitely different to my pre-lockdown routine, but I think mostly for the better.
Before lockdown I was working 5 days a week, 12 hour days, plus running my massage business. I really only managed 1 run a week. I missed out on a lot of local club runs, but made up for it at the weekend by banging out long 20 milers either by myself or with my running buddy Rachel.
We were training for Cotswold Way Century so were recce-ing a lot of the route. If I didn’t get that big run in I would feel very guilty and anxious. Sometimes it felt a bit of a chore, plus I picked up an injury in January, so I was struggling with that.
Then COVID-19 hit and I shut my business. Suddenly I had a lot of time and a lot of anger and frustration at having to close a business I had invested all my time and money into. I could run every day! But… only once and, at that time, supposedly for an hour. I couldn’t run with Rachel and I also had to exercise the dog.
Murphy became my new running buddy. She gets about 10 minutes down the road and needs a poo, and likes to stop and sniff stuff and eat/roll in cow pats, but she doesn’t chat too much and doesn’t randomly stop in front of me to trip me up too often. I struggled going too far with her and would get jealous of those doing longer runs when it appeared we could go out for more than an hour, but we have really had such a lovely time bonding and having adventures together.
I talk to her a lot and she’s a great listener – running and dogs makes for a great therapy session. Yes, I miss running with friends, and my long runs with Rachel and her amazing flapjacks, but I relearned how to love just running. No watch, no Strava, no set goal or training plan… just running with my dog!
When the pandemic first hit the UK, I did struggle to go out for my usual runs. I felt guilty about going out, when everyone was being told to stay home. But, in the end, I had to continue running for my own mental health.
I was doing between 25 and 30 miles per week, but I’ve been furloughed now for the past 5 or 6 weeks (to be honest, I’ve lost count of the weeks!), and I’ve found that my mileage has increased quite substantially. I have two teenagers at home, who I try to home school as best as I can, and luckily for me they do just crack on with it while I venture out for my runs.
I’m now running 5 or 6 days per week and clocking up 60 miles in those days. I’m really enjoying getting out there, but I really can’t wait for some sort of normality to return, as I am really missing my running friends. It’s quite tough running alone all the time.
Since getting back into running a couple of years ago, I’ve relied on others to keep me company and get me out doing the miles, so lockdown was a challenge to me as I would be a lone wolf. I’ve actually still had great support from my running pals, sharing runs and goals, the good days and the bad days. Keeping connected is so important.
One fun trick a friend and I have been doing to keep the motivation up is Photo Snap. My friend sends me three photos of his run – it could a photo of a bench, a purple sign, or cows – and then I have to take matching photos on my run. I then do the same for him; he’s still trying to snap a squirrel after a month! It makes me feel connected to others when I run and takes my mind off the running, as I am on a hunt for the photo to match.
I have also found a love for laps – after avoiding any races with laps or out and backs! I just found it demoralising. I did a 5K around a local 1.1K circular trail route only half a mile away from my house, trying to follow lockdown guidelines, and actually enjoyed it! Then I was kindly given a set of Bluetooth headphones as a present from my brother for doing the family shopping while they isolated. This meant I could run without listening to my laboured breathing! I soon smashed out a 5K and 10K PB around my ‘track’ and then smashed the 5K PB again a couple of days later.
Last week I decided to do a half-marathon, again from home on local, remote, hilly trails. My only other trail half has been at the Larmer Tree Races, a month or so before. It was boiling hot and I went out at midday with my pack on containing 500mls of water and a gel like I did at Larmer Tree – schoolboy error! I ran out of water at mile 10 with a huge hill looming! For the last three miles all I could think about was swimming in the sea and submerging into water! I was so thirsty, but I kept going and was so pleased I did it – on my own too!
I came back elated that I had achieved this, when only a month before I relied on company to keep me going. I had the normal runner’s high and decided to set another challenge: to run 20 miles, from my home, to see the sea at the halfway mark. I also wanted a medal for my efforts, so I signed myself up to a White Star Virtual Race so I can be rewarded with a cool medal! I will be stashing water in the hedge the day before to refill… my lesson on that one has been learnt!
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