Well, what a year it's been. The craziest part being, we still have just under three months to go until the new year rolls in. In some ways, I can't believe we are nearly at the end of this year already. It felt like I blinked and we skipped from mid-March to June. But, on the other hand, Covid-19 and everything it has brought with it feels like it has been a part of society for an unbearably long time now. Looking back, I can distinctly split this year into three clear sections of time that seemed to greatly differ from one another, even though only separated by a matter of weeks. From a running perspective, the same is also true. My running year has undeniably fluctuated in motivation, load and enjoyment as societal and personal circumstances have changed. Some of these changes were extremely positive, allowing me to reach the best physical fitness I have ever achieved, however some were most definitely not, and these are the ones that I found hard to deal with.
Reflecting back, it is amazing how different your feelings and emotions can change in short spaces of time, especially for a sport that you love. The past nine months have been challenging for us all, but reflection provides us with the chance to learn and grow from what this year has taught us. In terms of my 2020 running journey, it has certainly been a ride. Hopefully reading this, you'll find some elements relatable and we can all revel in the fact we are not alone in the way that 2020 has made us feel as runners.
Back in the good old days
Yes, from this, I am referencing the time back before lockdown hit and the world seemed a much calmer, albeit dirtier, place. January through to March saw me in full swing half marathon training, gearing up to tackle to 13 mile distance for the first time ever. I am super proud of what I achieved in those 10 (ish) weeks that I managed to tick off of my plan. Excuse the pun, but I literally hit the ground running at the beginning of lockdown, being at the best physical fitness I have ever been. Having that race day to aim for massively aided my motivation and determination, feeling a sense of purpose with my training that I hadn't in a long time. Alongside that, I was also thoroughly enjoying being part of my first running club and all of the new, social elements that brought to the sport for me. To put it simply, in March 2020 my running was in the best place it has ever been both through enjoyment levels and fitness levels.
As the reality of my race happening slipped further and further away, I can't lie, I was absolutely gutted. Knowing I wasn't going to cross that finish line after I had put in all the hard work was devastating. Unfortunately, this also took a slight knock on my motivation and I decided I wasn't going to aim to complete the distance solo or virtually. For the most part this was because I knew I wouldn't have the same drive in those circumstances but I also, naively thought Covid-19 wouldn't stick around as long as it has.
This was a bizarre period of time, something none of us had ever experienced before. The world felt full of negativity and uncertainty and running was definitely my light in all of that. I felt so grateful that I could leave the city and head back into the countryside, and even more grateful we were still able to get out each day for exercise. The incredible weather was an additional blessing and made the months much more bearable. For the first month and a half, my running motivation was high. I stuck to my three runs a week, even continuing to complete one long run of at least 13km week after week in order to keep my fitness levels at their peak. Feeling like I had all the time in the world to fit in running, strength sessions, yoga and mobility felt, honestly, amazing for a while, even under such terrible world circumstances. But, unfortunately, lockdown took its toll and this high motivation and elated feelings didn't last.
Partly, I feel social media had some negative part to play in this. Seeing many people out running further than ever before, completing virtual races and smashing their PBs made my running feel, almost, insignificant. I had all this extra time on my hands, so why wasn't I completing my half marathon goal? Why wasn't I setting a new 10k PB? My attitude of "just keep myself ticking along" suddenly felt less than adequate and I began to feel a drop in my motivation to keep going. Admittedly, social media wasn't all too blame and during this time was when I set up this very page. The community I have met from this blog have been nothing but inspiring, supportive and motivational - and I am so glad I am now a part of it.
Alongside the social pressure element, losing my solid aim of a specific race day impacted me greatly. The longer and longer lockdown went on, the more I realised my 2020 half marathon goal was an unlikely one. I enjoy working to a plan with an end result lined up, so the whole Covid-19 scenario was bound to put a huge downer on that as for most other athletes. By no means am I the only individual who felt this way, but I think that is why I wish to share these experiences - to show we were and are all in the same boat.
The new normal
During lockdown, it felt like the alleviation of restrictions would fix all our problems. Many of us longed to be allowed out again, to visit our families and let normal life resume as it always had. But, realistically, this was never going to be the case. As restrictions did lift and full lockdown came to an end, life became perhaps even more confusing. And, this seemed to reflect in my running as well. Whilst I tried to keep up my regular sessions, I found my routine becoming much more sporadic than it had been when, for the three months previously, running had been the only thing in my routine. Having said that, during the summer I did manage a couple of lovely staycations that included an abundance of walking and hiking. Being kind on ourselves was an important part of adjusting to life after lockdown, therefore I ensured to not pressure myself and simply act on enjoyment. Sometimes, this led to more strength sessions than running - locking myself away in the garage with nothing but music and a kettlebell. Other times, I opted for a morning yoga session and nothing more. Entirely dependent on my mood, my running became more of an as and when.
This brings us to now. Still adjusting, still trying to settle back into some level of consistency, but most importantly, still running. Just as life has somewhat resumed a sense of normality, my running seems to have followed suit in many ways. Although my weekly distance has dropped considerably and my fitness levels are no where near what they were 6 months ago, I have found a routine in which I am consistently running at least twice a week. I have also joined a new, local running club, as I mentioned in my previous post, which has helped me massively in terms of motivation and enjoyment. Going forward, my goal is to get back up to consistently three runs a week and begin upping the distance of one to regain my longer distance ability.
During this reflection, it is evident that the societal impact of the pandemic affected my personal running circumstances in many ways. Although I wish my fitness was as it was pre-April, this would have been a completely unrealistic goal to have maintained throughout these unprecedented months. Hats off to anybody who has managed to come out of this pandemic at a peak performance level. Whilst I admire you, I've come to understand we all react and deal differently to personal circumstances. Running has been a hugely important part of my 2020, providing my happy place during those almost apocalyptic months and a social mechanism for me now in my new home. All we can do now is focus on what is ahead, and, fingers crossed, 2021 will be the year my half marathon goal becomes a reality.
Did any of this post resonate with your own feelings during the year? I'd love to hear your thoughts.