Johnny-come-lately

Buff runner

In the Buff

Humorous videos have been saturating social media since we locked down, but one tickled me in particular. In it, as man is interviewed thus:

‘Ok, so you have two options here. You can choose A) to remain at home with your wife and children or B)….’

‘B, yeah, B,’ interjects the interviewee.

As the weeks of staying in with the family accumulate, the joke’s humour darkens somewhat, given the news stories about the likely rise in domestic strife.

Those of us lucky enough to have plenty of indoor and outdoor space to luxuriate in (and who have selflessly lent their husband to his elderly mother) should pipe down here, I know, but as a longstanding member of the running community, I have mixed feelings about the ever-growing numbers of escapee joggers pounding the streets and pouring into the parks.

I blame Boris Johnson for putting the idea into everyone’s head. He more or less prescribed a daily run as one of our lockdown treats, so the populace felt compelled. And it’s a way to get out of the house for rather longer. Coming back hot and sweaty hours after ‘going out for a quick run’ can be explained away by a lack of fitness. The new runner indeed started out quickly, then hit the wall five miles in and needed to queue for ages at a supermarket to buy the wherewithal to refuel. Prodigal runner then limps stiffly home to apologise profusely to beleaguered partner deep in the throes of home-schooling the children in a cramped flat.

It’s week 4 of lockdown now and the sun has shone more or less consistently here in London. After the first weekend of mass campervan/SUV outbreak to beautiful parts of the country (and the shaming thereafter of a bunch of entitled second homers, including Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer), chagrined exercisers have tried to content themselves with local parks and well-trodden running routes.

The lockdown craze for running outdoors has riled those who see themselves as serious runners (athletic club members, Ovett-style short wearers, people who don’t run with music, water bottles or wear T-shirts that say Run For Cake). They elbow their way past joggers, would-be gym treadmill hamsters and strollers, shaking off drops of perspiration in their wake, convinced of their immortality. After all, they reason, they’re not obese, diabetic, vulnerable or old. They’ll be just fine.

Such  ‘business as usual’ runners, who show scant regard to endangering the rest of the prisoners in the urban exercise yard, are irresponsible. Yet I, too, began to feel a little prickly over the new running craze that’s clogging up my old routes, before quickly getting over myself. I don’t own running, and surely it’s good for people to discover how delightful it is? It’s not as if there isn’t room for all the newbies, or that resources are running out (as has occurred with all the newly minted breadmakers competing for flour, much to the oft-Tweeted ire of habitual bakers).

In any case, I like helping out those who want to discover what I’ve been going on about for so long. An old friend recently messaged to tell me that in the absence of her usual swimming sessions, she’s taken to running. Her knees, however, don’t like that. What to do? It was easy to give a few tips about curbing her enthusiasm, waiting until the knees stopped aching, then download a Couch25k timetable and learn some knee strengthening drills.

And there are other ways to make myself useful, while I’m forbidden to physically coach clients. Secret London Runs, a regular employer, has hired me as their online coach, to try to mitigate the loss of mojo that customers may feel now all our running tours have been cancelled.

I’m only too happy to spread the love of running, and take the opportunity to advocate the practice of running on the grass, away from park-using masses on the paths, while getting fit enough to join us for the ever popular 10k Gin Tour, when we’re able to schedule them again.

Until then, it’s lockdown G&Ts while you read a few (excellent of course) Secret London Runs blogs for further inspiration…

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