If you can think back to the start of 2020, life feels almost unrecognisable – I was training for the London Marathon and thoroughly enjoying sharing marathon training journeys with several of my Run Club friends. Alongside this I was throwing myself into work doing a job I loved and living my usual busy life where my house was more of a hotel, waking up at 5:30am to run and often not getting home until 8 or 9pm at night (oh how things have changed…!) I had also logged two great races during these early months of the year; the Stamford 30k which I ran with Run Club friends and felt strong despite the challenging conditions and a lot of hills, as well as a great day out at the Cambridge Half Marathon with my sister and her boyfriend.
Then it all changed. Lockdowns, working from home for endless months, learning what 2 metres looks like, clapping on the street, queuing to get into Tesco, shopping for vulnerable strangers who needed help, working out in my living room, and Zoom – how can I forget Zoom! Running remained a constant though, and whilst Boris Johnson and co. have made some questionable decisions this year, one thing I am appreciative of is their recognition of the importance of exercise. I have run constantly all year, and probably logged a lot more miles than normal, keeping a consistent level of good weekly mileage. Due to this I feel my base level of running fitness has improved – it sounds almost arrogant, but I have been able to perform well at the few races that were possible in the latter part of the year without really training for them. Throughout 2020, running has been the focus of moments of enjoyment as in previous years, however it has taken at times a very different form.
For many weeks, running was solo adventures around a deserted Lincoln, running down the centre of roads which you never would normally dream of without even having to look to cross junctions. It gave me fresh air and kept me sane through many months of working from home, and I think judging by the amount of runners I would see out, was a sanctuary many others found. When restrictions eased and exercise was allowed with one other person, I was able to finally run with others again – a particular joy for someone like me who lives alone. Socially distanced runs eventually became small bubbles of running, which allowed the return of Run Club in little groups. Being a Run Leader has never been so rewarding as when my Run Club returned; seeing friends each week and knowing that we were all appreciative of that structure, escapism, and togetherness. It has been far more than just running.
The London Marathon played with my emotions throughout 2020. The postponement of the event in Spring paused my training, and instead I completed a 2.6 running themed challenge on what would have been London Marathon day, running 13 miles around Lincoln including 13 of the steepest hills in the city to raise funds for the charity I work for. Training then started again in the summer and went on far longer than it should have before the London Marathon organisers finally decided to cancel the rearranged October date. I then lost my Good For Age place in the mess they made of transferring people into future dates – which is another story…
In addition to the 2.6 challenge, I also took on a 10k challenge raising funds to tackle food poverty in Lincoln, which was led by my workplace. I ran laps around Lincoln City FC’s pitch until I reached 10k (I honestly cannot remember how many laps it was now – but it was A LOT!!) which also coincided with it being one of the hottest days of the year, registering at a sweltering 32 degrees. A fellow Run Club member also ran seven half marathons in seven days to raise funds to support the NHS, and I joined him for one of his runs as well as getting caught up in the excitement that rippled through our Run Club during the week.
Summer brought more freedom to running and life. I was able to see my family for the first time in 2020 and also enjoyed some trail adventures when my sister was able to visit me again. Racing also returned – the Normanby 10k was a welcomed return to pinning a piece of paper onto my chest on a Sunday morning and was expertly delivered to offer both a safe and enjoyable experience. Bassingham Bash 5m soon followed, and like at Normanby, I was really pleased with my performance considering I had not trained specifically for either distance. I also marked what would have been the first Lincoln City Half Marathon – and event I am involved with organising through my work and was devastated to have to postpone due to Covid - with a Run In Red half marathon around Lincoln with friends.
Autumn squeezed in one final race – the Thorsby Half Marathon which I loved; a trail adventure which I ran strongly and finished as 3rd female, gaining a little piece of silverware in the process. As Covid-19 took a hold of the country again, racing then ceased, but I logged two further virtual races; the Hedgehog Half Marathon and the Doncaster 10k. It is hard work running a virtual race – pushing yourself all-out but without the race atmosphere - but I was pleased to challenge myself. I also won my age group in both races and gained two further trophies. It felt strange receiving these in the post, but I told myself to feel proud I had remained fit throughout 2020 and had also kept my motivation high in order to complete these races on my own accord.
Christmas was also defined by running; unable to visit my family over the festive period and finding myself alone for the first time, I was very grateful to have the joy of a Christmas morning run with friends to get me out of bed and start the day memorably. 2020 should also have been a Christmas Day and Boxing Day parkrun double – I am sad enough to have planned that well in advance of Covid! – and I cannot write this blog without mentioning how much Lincoln parkrun has been missed in my life this year. I coped without races for many months, truly realising that I did not need a race to find joy from running, but parkrun is a whole community that was taken from us all. When it comes back I think it will truly feel euphoric.
To summarise, I feel thankful for running in 2020 – unsurprisingly my previous running goals were put on the back burner, but I would never have got through this year without running. Being a member of a Run Club has also been hugely important; I live by myself which has been tough during times of lockdown and limited social contact, however having friends to run with and talk to, either individually or in our club sessions, has really helped get me through. I have valued every single run and mile more than ever.
2020 had also taught me a lot about myself and life and for that I am actually grateful for 2020. It has given me the pause I probably did not know I needed and a chance to reflect. I have realised how valuable the people in my life are – I have a diverse friendship network formed predominantly from running circles but also wider, and I am truly grateful for every single one of them. I have felt so very supported and cared for by those around me. I have also learnt to cope far better with myself, which sounds strange, but sometimes you can be your own worse enemy, and when you have a lot of time with your own thoughts/in your own head it is easy to get lost. I feel proud of the personal strength I have shown. I think 2020 has also made me more adaptable; things change – and I am not always a fan of change! – but I have realised sometimes you have to let go of certain things and people that I used to think I needed to have in my life. Finally, I think I have learnt to recognise what makes me happy again and who I need to be around to feel happy – I strangely feel more like ‘me’ than I have done in years.