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Pandemic, pity, perspective

coronavirus is taking its toll on more than just sport, remember that – original image ©

Looking back to the start of the year, my perspective on my training schedule. I started full of hope, eager to capitalise on a solid foundation from last year. My goal marathon for spring being the Tralee Marathon and training was going very well indeed. Only three weeks ago, I ran a trial marathon for fun, in less than 3 hours and 40 minutes. Fifty-plus mile weeks were tumbling without issue and the pace solid. Then last week, I fell off a cliff.

Coronavirus first attracted the world’s attention around the same time I was planning my training schedule for the year. Somewhat dismissed, I don’t think anybody foresaw exactly what was going to happen in two short months. The world now gripped by a pandemic that threatens countless lives. A health crisis that could cripple economies and health services beyond recognition. Running doesn’t seem so important with that perspective.

goodbye tralee

Before the Irish Government’s announcement that schools would close and large sporting events would not be allowed, I already resigned my position. There was no way that I was going to Tralee for the marathon. I could not and would not put myself, my family, and my friends, and complete strangers in that position because of self-interest. Honestly what kind of person would do that? Expose themselves to an increased risk of contracting a virus; knowingly; willingly.

Saying goodbye to a marathon is not something that I have ever done before. Thankfully, every marathon I have ever trained for, I have managed to run. Even if the result was not ideal, I still completed them. With training going so well and my pace over distance at an unprecedented level of comfort, saying goodbye was both the hardest and yet the easiest decision I ever had to make. Some things in life matter much more – that’s perspective. As it transpires, the Tralee Marathon is now postponed and will be run at another date to be decided.

off the cliff

Despite being of clear mind when making my decision to withdraw from Tralee, it’s not the kind of decision that comes without a price. For me, that price was an immediate drop in interest for any mileage whatsoever. Two weeks ago, I posted 27 miles – half my normal weekly total. The only reason I registered that high was because I gave myself a wakeup call on the last day and posted a 13-mile run.

That wakeup call came in the form of realising that life was not going to be the same for some time to come. Countries everywhere were locking down in their attempts to deal with the spread of Coronavirus. Large sporting events cancelled. There would not be a race to partake in for some time to come. Everything I enjoy outside of family and work was about to cease or at the very least change beyond recognition.

At that point I decided there was no point feeling sorry for myself that I couldn’t run my goal marathon. That was stupid behaviour even if I did clearly believe in the right reasons for such. I could take back control somewhat and still have some fun with new challenges for however long this thing lasts. Lockdowns, restrictions, cancelled races: none of these things change that I’m a runner nor that I love running so much. Get over yourself and just do what you enjoy!

back on some kind of horse

After falling off the cliff and dusting myself off again, it was time to set new behavioural patterns. All races are off – I don’t need to sharpen up, I don’t need to run crazy distances. I just need to enjoy my sport and stay fit and healthy.

As I’m somewhat of a germaphobe at the best of times, outdoor running was immediately out. I sweat too much, touch my face too much as a result, and cannot control the environment in which I run outdoors. Thus, all my mileage from this point will be on my trusty treadmill. No sooner had I made that call than I found myself looking up and lusting after fancier, commercial grade mills. Bloody fanboy!

The steady half-marathon that refocussed my mind was the start of it. I followed that the next week with a new personal record of 18 miles on the mill. Honestly, I do not advise this at all. Not because of boredom or the risk of psychological damage but for the reason that if you don’t have a commercial-grade treadmill, you really are running the poor thing into the ground. I don’t have a commercial-grade machine and I know the risk I’m running. I care for it methodically and maintain it impeccably but still, it’s not made for that kind of running.

The midweek runs were combinations of distance and strides with most conducted on a somewhat over easy pace or verging on steady. While the mileage is going into the shallow end for the weeks to come, it might as well be quality.

two long runs in summary, just for tradition’s sake

These are the charts and splits of the two long runs that I have completed since I last posted a weekend update. Nothing special really; the 18-miler was quite satisfying with the gags of Airplane II to keep my spirits high for the majority of the miles. First up the 13-mile steady run.

nice and steady with the usual wrist-based craziness from the heart rate monitor
nice and steady with the usual wrist-based craziness from the heart rate monitor
consistent splits (as you'd hope on a treadmill) with an injection of pace at the end to spice things up a little
consistent splits (as you’d hope on a treadmill) with an injection of pace at the end to spice things up a little

Now to look at the data from the new personal record of 18 miles on the goddamn treadmill!

how I wish my heart rate was actually that for this run! 😂
how I wish my heart rate was actually that for this run! 😂
I had fun on this run, cranking the speed every now and then before finishing sensibly, that's what perspective is all about
I had fun on this run, cranking the speed every now and then before finishing sensibly, that’s what perspective is all about

what’s the plan?

I wish I could say that I’ve thought that far ahead. For now, there is no plan other than to stay safe, stay healthy, and stay as fit as possible. I’ll keep running on the treadmill until such time that it’s safe in my mind to run outdoors again or it suffers a catastrophic equipment failure.

My running buddies are full of fun and positive thoughts during this time so that’s good for the head. A small challenge for weekly mileage may have been set up on Garmin Connect to keep us honest. If I top that leaderboard on a treadmill, questions will be asked!

Nobody knows how and where this is going to come to an end, whereby people will be out of danger again and the pandemic subsides into something entirely manageable. The world still has no vaccine confirmed and is wholly reliant at this point in the common sense approach of every individual who has a choice in limiting their exposure and thus the exposure of others to this dreadful virus.

For now, I can run. That’s pretty much why I got into this in the first place and that’s a very good place to be. Get some perspective, take care of yourself and those around you. Get fresh air when possible and enjoy whatever exercise you can, in a safe environment. We will come out the other end of this. Let’s make sure we do it in style by trying to help everyone we can along the way by staying out of their way.

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