The blue normal

Greewich river gloom

The future’s not so bright, but we’ll make like it is

Week nine, and the silver linings glimpsed through the fug of lockdown are losing their lustre. This Bank Holiday weekend has been a particularly fractious one, what with all the Cummings and goings (the joke that keeps on giving). Twitter is savage, though, and the spectacle of the man himself being verbally abused by his neighbours in his (possibly Islington…usually is) street came as a hideous counterpoint to the Thursday Clapping Show.

The clap this week will be the final encore, as most people have begun to feel a little conflicted about it. Standing outside ones front door and clapping – while the country goes to hell in a handcart and the ‘heroes’ would rather have been rewarded for their heroics with respect and salaries that paid the rent  – felt increasingly mealy mouthed.

With my last slightly awkward round of applause this Thursday evening, and the prospect of hiring a car and fetching the old man from Somerset this week, I am bracing myself for that new normal that seems to be preoccupying the nation.

The old, new and normal normal I have always taken for granted is the particular joy of planning The Sunday Long Run in marathon training. During lockdown, as mentioned before, the restrictions caused by avoidance of public transport, closure of cafes and public toilets has rendered the SLR shorter and somewhat brisker, and the surroundings are now too familiar. The parks I have always loved can’t show me new views, the streets and pavements are rendered even more toxic by the palpable waves of disapproval directed at runners. Swapping the long run for a long bicycle ride to get further into the suburban countryside is a possibility, but risky, as I never learned how to fix a puncture, and, anyway, cycling is a pain in the butt after a few hours in the saddle.

One of my most memorable summer training runs back in the old days was a 19-miler to Gravesend, followed by a pint in a riverside pub, then a train ride back. Or there was the marathon training by the sea in Dorset, while staying with family. Making a weekend of it, exploring the hills of Shropshire, the fields of Lincolnshire, the wild side of West Wales.

One of the coaches at Kent AC sent out a very welcome email announcing a route back into marathon training. It is, of course, a virtual, online route, but something we all can share, The virtual training, incorporating advice, routes and weekly session suggestions based on our goals for autumn marathons that may or may not go ahead have come just in time, because yesterday an attack of stir-craziness sent me running into trouble. I chose the river route into central London with scant regard for my lack of breakfast, water, sleep and good humour. My disinclination to get back to the empty house full of unfinished projects drove me further.  The result wasn’t pretty. Fortunately a couple of quid in my shorts pocket and a handy corner shop countered the dehydration and hunger, but 10 miles in, then deciding to run the six miles back from Waterloo Bridge, escalated my normal Sunday  mileage into a new normal my body wasn’t ready for.

The rest of the day was spent in an achey, limping fug of self pity. That kind of physical fatigue is not great for the body, setting up an inflammatory response that necessitates very careful recovery and lots of sleep. However, next door’s partying, unseasonal heat and my self-imposed over tiredness and subsequent daytime caffeine and sugar put paid to that.  The online training schedule created by my coach will require me to focus.

As the grip of lockdown loosens, perhaps I will cast my sights beyond the M25 and run far away. Already an opportunity has presented itself to me. The hire car I am driving 110 miles to fetch my husband, so that we can self-isolate together in a way that I *think* is legal now (I think Mr D Cummings would be lenient if he knew) is my passport to a change of scenery: country lanes, rolling hills and no pedestrians (it’s rich farmer country, everyone’s in a LandRover or tractor). The mother-in-law’s daily carer will be coming back in hygienic mask and gloves and I will promise not to have any senior moments when it comes to playing fast and loose with the mileage.


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