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the only road I know

The last time I ran on a road surface was over 5 weeks ago. Hospitalised twice in the last 6 years; even then I never went that long without miles on the road. As a road runner who often longed to be a track runner but never had the pace for it, you’d think I wouldn’t miss it that much but I do.

Okay, somewhat of a false flag opening paragraph there. You’ll know if you’ve been reading my weekly summaries that I am still running albeit not on the road. It’s a self-enforced thing. There is no reason that I couldn’t go for a run within my 2km radius on any given day other than I have chosen not to. Instead, I am beating the living daylights out of my treadmill.

training in isolation

When this Coronavirus/COVID-19 thing kicked off seriously in Ireland, I went straight into lockdown. The only outdoor adventure was essential shopping with the kind of planning that wouldn’t look out of place in a Rambo montage. Albeit disillusioned with the knowledge that all my goals for the year were set to be wiped out, I was happy that I had my treadmill. At least I could keep something going for fitness/fun.

That first week was tough even with the search for silver linings. Accepting that the fastest you’ve ever been coming into a marathon would not get the chance to be proven settles like a kick to the crotch. I had one good run that week and barely breached 27 miles for the 7 days.

in the absence of road, it was starting to look like an absence of miles
in the absence of road, it was starting to look like an absence of miles

In the following two weeks I started getting a grip again. Putting in two 45-mile efforts of mostly steady running was good on paper. Mentally however, it was soul-destroying. A 45-mile week, indoors, on a treadmill is a lot more effort than would come easily on the road. Yes, it’s still the same mileage but psychologically, a 55+ mile week would happen without half that suffering. No fresh air, no breeze in your face, sweating like crazy – it’s not ideal. On the upside, reruns of The Chase (ITV quiz show) are distracting and enjoyable. I may have gained some new general knowledge while maintaining fitness.


No sooner had I risen to a respectable level in terms of weekly mileage than the slump hit me again. What was it all for? There would be no marathon this year in all probability. I could run one myself but that would take a hit on my immune system at a time when I need it more than anything. Down, down, down… away through the rabbit hole.

That week, I ran 32 miles only because I forced myself to do something on the Sunday. Tried to take hold of the mind again and use the body to overcome in a rare sighting of body over mind for a positive outcome.

when the slump hits, it's hard to convince yourself you're working towards anything
when the slump hits, it’s hard to convince yourself you’re working towards anything

It became increasingly difficult to dismiss the question of “why am I doing this?” All races are off. All goals on my training calendar surely cancelled. Fitness doesn’t require 6+ hours of running a week. Am I the last soldier in the jungle, still fighting the war that ended 10 years ago?

I realise that my training digests and race reports have typically been of an upbeat nature but honesty is required too. I’m struggling with this. Perspective, etc, of course. Poor me I’m out of sorts about running – boo-hoo. I get it; I understand that. It doesn’t make it any easier when that thing you’re not content with is pretty much everything you focus on outside of family and work.

rise again – build the sleeping giant

If I had to say how this is all going to play out, I know I would get it so very wrong. I have no idea how the next weeks and months are set to unfold. All I can do is try to add interest, no matter how silly, and keep things going. If I can do that, perhaps when this is all over, I’ll be in a position to really do something that I wasn’t previously capable of.

During the week of the slump I started assigning random numbers as my run targets. I’d pick a number of minutes in an album title or other piece of pop culture. It didn’t really work that week. However, I continued to do it for the last week also. Thinking about what image to choose before I hit the treadmill is now adding/taking minutes from what I want to do. This means that I have to increase/decrease pace to hit the target and that results in a pretty random but novel bit of fun. Keeping people guessing as to what image will next appear in my Garmin/Strava feed is another.

While seeking the silver linings this week, I decided to run some numbers from my lockdown efforts. It turns out that I’ve managed 200+ miles on the treadmill since I started this self-imposed regime. Crikey, that’s a lot of indoor miles watching TV! The silver lining though is that this is not far off a 200-mile month of which I would be very happy with during any off-season period. Maybe this isn’t so bad after all? Greater is the endorsement that those numbers are for Reebok’s GT40s consumer grade treadmill. What a machine! I fear I may be asking too much of it but it has been with me every step without yield.

200-mile month on a treadmill – they ain't made for that; I'm not sure I am either!
200-mile month on a treadmill – they ain’t made for that; I’m not sure I am either!

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