Week 5 of Lockdown sees the city’s runners in mourning for the London Marathon. The greatest race on earth was supposed to take place on 26 April. When Covid 19 first struck we were promised the 2020 race would be postponed to October 4, but that looks doubtful. I reckon we’ll hurdle that one and go straight into VMLM 2021. I wonder what will happen with all the medals and T- hirts?
My club marked the day by organising a paired marathon challenge. Slower runners were paired with the top flight ones – each runner ran a responsible, physically distanced 13.1 over the weekend and logged their results on a spreadsheet. The fastest pair to run a whole marathon between them were the winners. The fastest pair logged 2 hours and 40 minutes. One member of that fast pair ran the distance in about 70 minutes. I am in awe. And I was, of course, slow.
It’s really hard to run a competitive race when you’re all on your own. My long, slow Sunday runs have been isolated. I’ve seen my usual travelling companions across the park and on Zoom strength and conditioning workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays, but mostly I’ve looked faintly ridiculous, especially on Tuesday ‘speed’ and Saturday ‘parkrun’ days, trying to run quick laps of park grass with my Buff over my nose and mouth and my sunglasses on.
I don’t run with music: chatting is my preferred distraction on a long slow run. We talk about work, spouses, lovers, children, hopes, dreams, frustrations. Since lockdown, Sunday runs have involved inner conversations, literary aspirations and plans about what I will write in my daily email to my husband. His are more compelling because he’s describing the challenge of being rusticated in Somerset with a mother whose powers of recall have been so decimated by dementia that she can’t remember the answer she received to questions she asked 10 minutes ago. He’s never watched Groundhog Day but is assured that that’s what his life is like. On the other hand, he’s comfortable; in a big smart house with an expansive garden, his brother is bringing in bags of groceries, he’s going for pleasant country walks, writing a lot, making music and his mother peels all the potatoes. Even when they’re not eating potatoes. She just sees a potato and peels it. She also likes to empty the fridge and put perishable items in interesting drawers. Smells ensue.
Her memories of being a girl in London during wartime are detailed and undimmed. She just repeats them. A lot. You can be assured of the fact that London in 1941 was absolutely nothing like London in the time of Covid 19, for all Boris Johnson’s bluster about ‘the conflict.’
I miss my running buddies, but the competitive relationship I have with my best one is still alive and kicking. We agreed on the route we’d take on Sunday, and we kept each other in our sights for the first seven miles or so. She’s a good deal faster than me, however, so pulled out of view at London Bridge and I was left to my own circular thoughts and the slightly sarcastic beeps from my Garmin’s mile counting (maybe that was just my slight derangement in the heat). She didn’t crow later, when we compared our times on WhatsApp. Maybe she will when we do our potentially hilarious podcast. We’ve already decided it’ll be warts and all. Be warned.