Listening to the radio on my way back from mum’s yesterday, I tune in to hear a researcher asking people to choose one object to remind them of the last 12 months. Unsurprisingly most people in the survey choose a face mask. I have time during my gridlock on the M5 to consider my options, and, as the the traffic eventually starts to move again, I decide to choose a pair of running shoes as my object (NB as one running shoe doesn’t really work on its own, I justify choosing a pair of matching objects #Hokaclifton7justsaying).
I do not want to come across as a worthy lass who has reworked her life and fitness goals during the Corona Era – you know me too well to allow me to get away with this. No, but I have relied on running to trundle through Lockdowns 1, 2 and 3 as best I can. Long weekend runs have book- ended some very tedious weeks/months and mid-week bimbles have served as place markers to remind me that there is some movement going on, even if it is not outside the UK and even if I do always end up in the same place – this has actually been quite reassuring at times. Being strict with myself about not running on a treadmill has also helped with my wellbeing – no-one wants to run flat out to find that they have been nowhere.
My running shoes – smelly and battered though they are (I am just building up to an excuse to buy yet another pair of Hokas for, although Favourite Man will say otherwise, they are not that malodorous) just symbolise the most important thing to come out of the pandemic: friendship and chat. Thankfully I have always been blessed with both of these – I have written many times about how friendship and chat have seen me through some testing dragonfly years – but with a limit on the number of people I have been able to meet over the last year, and my tendency to comfort eat through trial and tribulation, running has become a truly valued companion.
The weird thing about running is that even years later you can always remember exactly where you were on a run when you had a particular conversation – or even burst into tears. It can be a lamppost, a tree or a bend in the road, and it will be super glued in your memory bank, filed with the relevant words of wisdom that were delivered at this point. Over the last year parts of the Gloucester Canal; a marina ;a sea front; Bristol Docks and the Cotswold Way have all earned their place in my back catalogue of stand out chat. (I feel I should point out that my Lockdown fitness is not such that I have managed a journey between all these locations on the same run., but it may be something to build towards).
When you have to run on your own – and sometimes you always have to do this during a Lockdown – you can draw on these stand out conversations in a way that saves thousands of pounds in coaching and counselling fees. What I am trying to say – and it is difficult for me to express this clearly when I am sitting down – is that I think that it is the chat, not the chemical endorphins that make me so attached to running. For this reason, I never run with headphones.
I think running works for me because I always do my best thinking out loud and bizarrely – or because I run so slowly – I have always been able to run and chat. This infuriates my daughter even though I am convinced that Nike once had a campaign, ‘Run at the speed of Chat’. In my head, a slow run means more time for talk; my daughter just wishes I would run silently and keep a note of the distance we cover.
Thinking out loud can make me come across as a very messy communicator (not ideal for a teacher, I admit) , for what initially comes out of my mouth will often be me road-testing some options. The benefit of running with such wise and mellow friends is that by the end of a run, I have usually tested out a few theories and heard how ludicrous some of my catastrophising can sound when it is spoken – breathlessly – out loud.
Perhaps there is a gap in the market for this type of coaching? After all, in normal times you can book a city run with a local as your tour guide, so perhaps I should be doing more to promote my friends’ expertise on social media? ‘One hour ‘sort your life out’ jogs available; choice of distance, urban or rural options, dm me for solo or group activity’. I do not think any of my friends are actually looking to change career right now but perhaps they will not mind me pivoting and become their agent?
I will need a run or two with various people to test this idea out, but I feel that there is a real gap in the running market . Running like this would release people from their Fitbits, PB’s and Strava and really get our heads in shape. My training schedule could then legitimately log a coffee break on a harbour run – something that I have previously only confessed to my long-time running partner, because he too is much more partial to a milky coffee and waterside panoramic than an energy gel and negative split (see, we do know what we should be doing, we just choose to do it our way).
So, I stand by my Hoka Clifton 7’s as my Pandemic item of choice. I hope no-one will demand that I quarantine with my trainers on a desert island along with the Bible and complete works of Shakespeare, for the last year has left us all so cast away and isolated that I would prefer to take my running pals along with me for company. I feel that a few laps around any island will give us ample opportunity to work out how we can replace the Couch to 5k with our Coach to £k signature brand. They tell us to learn to live with Covid; I choose to run through it, thinking out loud.