Week 8 of lockdown has been eventful. Despite the lack of actual running races, those of us in Kent AC;s C group have been under pressure to put our foot on the gas in search of glory.
The keen, young and more technically minded runners in the top teams put together a Virtual Comrades Marathon (the real one having been abandoned owing to…yeah, you know). So we found ourselves being sorted into teams of eight to run 55 miles between us.
Obviously, if you’re a 2:20 marathon runner and you find yourself with a team-mate who goes by the name of Marathon Gran you’re going to have to do some creative thinking. You don’t want to hurt the old girl’s feelings, or in any way patronise her, but you can’t have her running many slow miles in this game….
My team-mates were very diplomatic and set me a three-mile challenge with a nice speedy finish time (I blew that, of course) and we wound up coming in second. Well done us. Them.
It is great to focus on running a bit faster, however. It’s important to do it in the right place/time of day so as not to intimidate or annoy other park users, but I have managed up the pace on grassy playing fields these past few weeks. The urge to get out into proper countryside is overwhelming. Our benighted government has proclaimed that we’re allowed to visit One Person in a given beauty spot…provided we drive there. I (carless) could weep. People are actively being encouraged to get into their cars, congest the roads and make life harder for pedestrians and cyclists. I am not allowed to get on a train.
All the reasons we live in cities are no longer relevant. Going for a very long bike ride (I cycled 40 miles around the central, west and north London last week) means your putting some strain on the old bladder with nowhere for a wee and coffee. Of course, some isolated parks (sorry Wimbledon Common) are fine for bush wees.
So, apologies, too, to Samuel Johnson. This Londoner is a bit tired of London. And the rusticated husband is tired of Somerset. The lack of a decent village shop selling locally produced food (it’s a salad cream and teabags sort of place) means he’s reliant on supermarket deliveries, and his mother’s penchant for ice cream and millionaire’s shortbread is causing a distinct straining of the shirt buttons. He has started digging over the garden to grow veg. His mum likes that, because she was in London during the war and helped her parents dig for Britain in West Hampstead.
Time was, when training for a marathon (will my 13 September marathon happen?), the jolly London runner could set out for her Long Slow Sunday run before anyone else was up, pick up a couple of team-mates along the way, run into town, stop at mile 13 for a coffee and banana from a pleasant little park cafe, run home again and still have the rest of the day for decent pub lunches or afternoon tea in a local park/gallery/museum…
Now, most of my Kent AC friends (except a very special quartet of women I hold very dear and run with distantly) are messages on WhatsApp or tiny wiry figures on Zoom strength & conditioning sessions. I was grateful, though, to a couple of young athletes from this hugely burgeoning club to invite me and my best running buddy to chat on the weekly podcast. Despite the fact I sound like a posh sixth former and come out with clangers like ‘I am entering my 58th year as a human being…’ Portentous. What was I before? A meerkat? I think it’s quite entertaining.
I certainly get into a bit of a riff on my favourite subjects: An older runner should push herself to be the best she can be. Stay competitive. Keep an eye on the best runners in your age group and quiz them mercilessly on their training/eating schedules. And don’t be afraid to talk about weeing in unexpected places. Sorry, again, Wimbledon Common.
You can listen to the podcast here.