The year began in lockdown – or whatever we were calling it, some sort of Tier structure maybe? Whatever slogan Boris and co had come up with, it meant (being brutally honest!) not much happened in the first months of the year. I kept motivated to maintain a strong running routine via my Run Club friends as we undertook various lockdown challenges and buddy runs. Running with friends kept me sane as I continued to work from home, and the release of the Government’s ‘road map’ out of Covid restrictions offered some hope on the horizon for the return of aspects such as group Run Club sessions, races, and parkrun. My mileage was strong and consistent, and a highlight of this period was my regular Friday night long runs with a friend, who at the time was training for an ultra-marathon. After a week of being stuck in my kitchen, chained to video call after video call, it was a tremendous release to run and chat with someone for a few hours. We would weave around the empty streets of Lincoln clocking up between 16-18 miles, but it never felt like that.
March 2021 marked a year of living with Covid; not a great milestone, but a marker nevertheless. The country ‘opened up’ a little following the Government’s roadmap, and this gave much needed hope after a tough start to the year. Run Club group sessions came into my life, and I also took on a couple of virtual running events the Lincs Inter Club 10k and the virtual Ashby 20. I am proud I maintained my running fitness during the lockdown periods to take on both these events; pushing hard over 10k distance on your own is tough, as is winding 20 miles around Lincoln solo, but I did it.
I continued to run strong into Spring, and unbeknown to most people, entered Peterborough Marathon at the end of May. A few conversations shared with my friend on those long Friday evening runs started to inspire me to think a marathon could be possible. And it was. Smaller in scale than other marathons I have taken on, and different in nature due to continued Covid restrictions, however it was equally as memorable. I can truly say I loved every single second of the race; the feeling of a physical and mental battle, and the strength to overcome each mile challenge felt even more worthwhile after living through Covid. I ran relaxed and with no time goal and was delighted to finish in 3:43:52; my third fastest marathon. I burst into tears at the finish overcome with pride and emotion. May was a good month, as added to achieving my 11th marathon, things also ‘opened up’ further outside of running. I was able to enjoy other parts of my life again; actually going into work, days out with friends, attending football matches, and most importantly finally getting to see my family.
Halfway through the year and things seemed to be moving forwards in many senses. Races started to take place more regularly and I managed to complete the Round Sheffield Run with my sister, enjoying being back on the hilly trails. Then my Achilles injury hit. It all happened very suddenly after only a couple of weeks of discomfort, yet in the space of a few runs this discomfort soon turned to pain. This pain meant I had to walk 5 miles home of a planned long run, and then was unable to even walk a step the next day. Cue a summer of cross training and rehabilitation. I committed fully to keeping fit, adapting to a weekly schedule of gym sessions and spinning classes, and once able, beginning a walk/run programme.
For someone who would quite happily head off for 18 miles on a Friday night, to someone who was now running for 1 minute then walking, you can see the impact my Achilles injury had on me. Google Achilles tendinosis and the description is quite scary – degeneration of the tendon… months away from running etc etc. You do not really believe it at first, but it has been true for me. I have coped though, something I never thought I would say. I was also helped by the Government’s roadmap continuing to open up, and at this point we were almost back to a state of freedom and normality. So, whilst I could not run, I could embrace other parts of life such as throwing myself (even more!) into a job I love, trips to visits friends and family, days out with friends, concerts, more football matches etc. Without the pressure of training for running races you could perhaps say I enjoyed these parts of my life even more than in past years. The biggest joy perhaps was that parkrun finally came back – and I will touch on that more later.
From being unbale to walk, I take great pride in being able to say I was disciplined in my recovery and had maintained enough fitness to complete two 10k races in the Autumn. The first the Lincoln 10k in truly biblical rain; being able to line up for my hometown 10k event, which I have not missed since 2013 (ignoring 2020!) was a special comeback. Following my injury and with limited miles under my belt, I had no idea what I may be capable of, and to finish in 45:11 felt amazing. A long way from PB territory, but a great marker. This ignited my desire to dip under 45 minutes at my next 10k, Doncaster 10k, a month later. A freezing cold day this time, but an event I ran with increased confidence, pushing myself to finish in 44:15 – nearly a minute quicker than my previous event and meeting my sub 45 challenge.
With 2021 now heading to a close, December saw me undertake some festive themed fun running in the form of the Lincoln Santa Run and the Elf Yourself 3k with a new little running buddy I have acquired. This blog would not be possible to write without a nod to my buddy, who is becoming quite infamous himself in the Lincoln running circles! My friend’s six year old son was inspired when I ran Peterborough Marathon earlier this year and told me quite confidently, he wanted to run a marathon with me. This filled me instantly with joy, but I realistically suggested we try some Lincoln parkruns together first. At this time I was still injured, so running with a little buddy was a great way for me to connect with a community I had missed so dearly during the pandemic, but also at a pace which suited my recovery. My buddy now loves parkrun and takes on the course each week with enthusiasm, joy, and embracing those around him. Yes, some weeks he does get distracted by dogs, trees, chatting to others, or telling me about some mythical creature which lives on Boultham Park, but every week he completes the 5k. I am so proud of the PB time he has set, which coincided with his 10th run milestone – that week he ran with such determination and showed the talent and endurance he still has locked inside. If he did not talk to me so much on the way around, I am convinced he has much more speed to give! But as we all know, speed is not the point of parkrun; its not all about times either for my buddy or for myself. parkrun has taken a new meaning for me having my buddy to accompany around the course and my times have most definitely slowed! Yet I feel I have achieved more parkrunning with my buddy than I could ever do on my own, and gaining my little running companion has been the biggest highlight of my running year for sure.
So, as I sit writing this review my Achilles is not fixed; it still worries me some days, I am still scared it may go backwards, and I long for the time I could head out the door carefree and just run. I am not sure when that will be yet, but I will keep going until I get back to that. I also long for life without Covid, but I think we all know that is not possible, as we must instead learn to live with it. The challenges of 2020 made me a stronger person, and 2021 chose to test that resilience in a different way. I turned 30 this year, and as I enter this next decade as well as 2022, I am taking a lot of learning from my 20s, as well as these last 12 months, to help make me both a happier and heathier runner and person.