Finding a new rhythm

It’s 6 months since my last blog post, the world’s quite a different place and I fear we’re not through the worst of things. In terms of the Corona virus infection rates we seem to be recording the some of the highest in the whole country around Manchester and there are no signs of it settling down just yet. We’re heading into that 2nd wave of infections that was predicted.

As usual I’ve found running has helped me to cope with the endorphins of exercise aiding my mental as well as physical wellbeing. In the first couple of months of the spring lockdown I was buoyed by the number of runners I’d see early in the morning and the new or returning cyclists riding steadily along quieter than normal local roads upon gleaming new bikes. I noticed pensioner couples walking together in the bright spring evenings and I could see some potential silver linings to our Corona virus threatened world. Back when we were only allowed to leave the house once a day for exercise it looked like many were ensuring they took their allotted quota.

There was frustration for many of my athletic friends who had races cancelled, particularly so for those who had trained for marathons. Prestwich AC kept its athletes motivated with some lockdown solo challenges such as finding local street names to spell out PRESTWICH AC, locating different coloured objects to make a rainbow or a pub crawl which for me was a 27 km run with sadly none of them being open at the start of June.

A club virtual relay race was suggested but I formed part of the only quartet to give it a go. It was the hardest I’d run in a couple of months and preparing for it gave me a focus for a couple of weeks. The rules were that you had to start from your front door and on completion of 2 miles in any direction you sent a selfie to the next runner in the quartet who then ran their leg. We took it so seriously we had a manager who whipped us up into a frenzy before we all gave our best in the “Selfie relay that wasn’t, but was

A couple of weeks later the same quartet ran a 4 x 2mile race as Radcliffe ACs Terry Nortley relay went virtual for 2020. I struggled with this one as I noticed my pace and fitness were slipping away. I’d been running fairly regularly but was finding longer or quicker runs becoming tougher as the weeks passed by. It wasn’t until the summer that I figured out that the lack of cycle commuting – and thus losing 5 hours of cross training fitness to supplement my running mileage – was the understandable reason for decline.

I’ve had lockdown lows, particularly on realising that the return to normal was being pushed further back, and the weather has got me down too when I’ve been less inclined to run and lethargy has crept in. I’m currently on a decent running streak with revised goals around consistent effort rather than speed. The Strava “Local Legend” title for the highest number of times a particular segment is run over a 90 day period is of particular interest to me at the moment. My running week has a nice rhythm to it with a short wake-up trot every weekday, an extra evening run once a week to help my son with his football fitness. The duration of his 11 a side games has increased to 80 minutes and with some team mates self isolating there aren’t as many substitutes around as usual on a Saturday morning.

Sundays have been fun with structured early morning sessions in Heaton Park. A group of 3 or 4 of us run hill reps or intervals ranging from 400m to a mile. Every Sunday as we meet at 7am I feel like I’m not in the mood, but within 20 minutes I’m giving it lots of effort as the good company around me do likewise.

I missed last Sunday though as I was supporting Danny through his Virtual London Marathon. He was intending to run at least 3 marathons in 2020 and London was going to be the highlight as he hadn’t done it before. The event was pushed back from April to October and then in the summer it was announced that only elite athletes would be running the revised London course. Danny had kept himself ticking over but the closure of gyms had stopped his treadmill running for a while and he was struggling to find guides as all our lives became more restricted.

Danny messaged his group of guides, some of them regulars and some more occasional, and asked who was available for Sunday. I offered to accompany him for 10k bearing in mind my fitness and having struggled so much back in March at the Trimpell 20. I said I could probably help out with a 2nd leg later on. His original London marathon guide was away in Wales and the only other who has supported a whole marathon was in Cornwall so in the end it was just Andrew and myself sharing the guiding.

The weather forecast early in the week didn’t look good so my plan was to do the first 10k, pop home for a cooked breakfast and then rock up for the last 10k when the food had settled. On the day it turned out to be dry and also Andrew was bringing Danny along to Heaton Park for me which was the venue I had pushed for with it being familiar and obstacle free. In return I thought I should stay around and provide support to them as they ran. I guided Danny through the first 10k, stopped for a coffee from the lakeside café and took back the guide string from Andrew after he had done the 2nd 10k.

This worked particularly well as the park got busier, filling up with dogs and children darting about on bikes; the extra set of eyes was useful as well as us enjoying a 3 way rather than 2 way conversation. My choice of route for the first 10k wasn’t very popular with 6 climbs of Angina hill, I reasoned that there was just as much downhill as there was uphill and some variation in gradient was good if you weren’t going for a quick time and were going to be on your feet for longer.

Danny hadn’t run anything longer than the Trimpell 20 miler back in March and although still running a number of times a week his mileage had dropped. He was expecting the marathon distance to be challenging and it certainly was. As I took the string for the last 7 km he was struggling with his knees and kept wanting to sit down on the grass. I was concerned he would struggle to get up again and might start to seize up. I let him pause at benches but was insistent that he only stop for 30 seconds then start to walk steadily if a run was still too painful. He had been fueling with different sweet foods and a couple of energy drinks but was short of water and feeling dehydrated. Andrew sourced water, ready salted crisps and a can of full sugar Coca Cola from a nearby ice cream van and this sorted him out. The Coke woke him up, the crisp were a tasty alternative to the sweet stuff and gave him a thirst to guzzle the water. After walking for a few minutes he came back to life and was dragging me along again.

As the last few kilometres ticked by I’m pretty sure the pace lifted and I was struggling to keep up again. My parents and Andrew’s parents had cheered us on through a few laps and Danny’s first ever parkrun guide, Sue, was there to support him too. Danny has managed to raise of £1000 for Look UK which is a charity supporting visually impaired young people to thrive. If you’d like to find out more and sponsor him the link is here:

I don’t mind admitting that the 27k of running on Sunday left me achy and tired for a few days. But this isn’t a problem as I just let the distance and my pace drop for a few days whilst keeping the newly found discipline and rhythm of my daily running.

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