As difficult a situation might be, there’s often a silver lining. Lockdown is no different.
Firstly, thanks to Dad’s Delicious Dinners for nominating me. I’ve enjoyed looking for a silver lining to this particular cloud. Besides, new and different ideas are always welcome. Especially when they focus on the positives in an otherwise difficult situation.
The UK entered lockdown on the 24th March. That same week, my daughter turned eight. It was an inauspicious start to this brave new world. Birthday parties cancelled, family visits deferred, BFFs temporarily out of reach.
She coped admirably for one so young. In fact, seeing how well she handled such a difficult situation was a moment of real pride for her mum and me.
My own response, by contrast, was nothing to be proud of. Under the circumstances I suppose it was reasonable. But my increased drinking and greater than usual grumpiness didn’t cover me in glory.
At first, I also abandoned running. That’s not to say all exercise was given the elbow. Along with my daughter I managed a few Joe Wicks PE classes. And I threw myself into the Bring Sally Up Challenge – I’m still struggling through it, five weeks later.
But running was dismissed. I feared whatever lurked out in the big, wide, infected world. Limited understanding about how and why the Coronavirus transmits didn’t help. But there was more.
In the press and across social media groups, people talked about hostility towards runners. It seemed a divide was growing between the quick and slow who vied for space on the nation’s narrow pavements. And my delicate mental state wasn’t prepared to deal with such a febrile atmosphere.
For two weeks I prowled the house like a caged tiger. Or, I stropped like a teenager without wifi.
Whatever I was like, it wasn’t pleasant.
Running starts anew
Then, one balmy evening, new trainers on my feet, I took myself out for a run. It wasn’t long or fast, but it was a run. And I absolutely loved it.
Pace didn’t matter. Distance wasn’t a concern. All that counted was the shortened breath, heightened heart rate, and the surge of endorphins.
There was something else, too. Something new. For the first time, I stopped mid-run to take photos.
The evening was beautiful, and the moon was pink – or, more accurately, it was a ‘Pink Moon’. So, I whipped out my phone and snapped disappointing shots of this stunning cosmic phenomenon.
It doesn’t sound much, but it was a real watershed moment for me. A point of realisation about why running is such great exercise.
I’d found an unlikely silver lining.
All about pace
Before lockdown, I focussed on stats. I wasn’t worried about them, but I certainly gave a lot of attention to them.
Even in “training”, where I run to feel, I’d pick apart the stats, post-run. How consistent were my splits? Was I quicker or slower than other, similar efforts? How did my heart rate compare with cadence and pace?
All things that, for a runner of my standard, aren’t necessarily important. That the information is available was all the reason I needed to review it.
Of all stats, pace was the one I focussed on most. I wasn’t concerned about running particularly fast. But I definitely worried about being “too slow”. I average around 4:45 per KM. That’s a comfortable pace for me, slightly over the average of my half marathon PB (1:39:51 – since you asked).
As a result, an internal voice insisted that stopping for photos wasn’t an option. How could I compromise pace in favour photos? Especially as I’ve never been one to stop my watch during a run.
The idea seemed ludicrous.
My silver lining
That was all in the Before Times. When people worked in offices and kids learned in schools.
But those times are gone (for now). We’re offered a rare opportunity to reconsider many things we see as normal. How we live, work and play.
For many of us, that includes rethinking how and when we run. Whether to avoid crowds, manage childcare or just because we can, we’re adopting new training regimes.
But, rather than see this as a negative, I’ve taken a fresh look at why I run. Those two weeks of caged teenagerdom, where I didn’t get out, made me appreciate what I love about running. The freedom, the mental headspace, the connection with the world around me.
And so, I now focus on the experience. I’ve slowed down. Occasionally I even stop completely. I look out to sea, I breath in the air and I take photos.
Most of all, I don’t care about pace. I don’t worry about being quicker than a previous run or if one mile is much slower than another.
Okay, I still peek at the stats. They’re still there and they can be useful. But, I care much less about what they tell me.
Instead, I give much more attention to how running makes me feel. And it feels good to do so.
And that’s my silver lining to this lockdown cloud.
I’ve enjoyed taking time to consider the good in this situation. It’s easy to focus on what’s not great, so why not peek at the upside as well?
Since photography was my trigger to take a fresh look at why I run, I’d like to nominate two photographers I have huge respect and admiration for.
Don’t worry if you don’t have time for this. You definitely don’t have to waffle on like I have.