I love running and over the past 10.5 years have become truly obsessed with it, especially going for the World Marathon Majors and having that as the big ultimate goal. Obviously I was supposed to do the Tokyo Marathon back in February and that was the first to fall to the coronavirus with only six days before the race that it was cancelled to none elite runners (and three days before I was due to fly).
As our lockdown in the UK was beginning to approach in March I was following very closely what was happening around Europe and was terrified that we would be on full lockdown like Italy, Spain and France. That never actually happened but in fear of not being able to go out for a run I have ended up in a run streak! Not really on purpose but working from home for a week or two before being placed on furlough meant I was going to be super conscious about moving around given that I have a very active job!
So here we head towards the end of July and I have ran every day for 125 days, a minimum of 5k/3.1 miles each day. With a few half marathons thrown in along with random other distances. It has been interesting to push myself at times and doing my own fake parkrun on a Saturday as a time trial, not every week but I have smashed my 5k PB on many occasions. The same with 10k which I have broken twice and I also set a new half marathon PB taking part in the virtual Sunderland Half Marathon. The thing is though when training for events in particular marathons I haven’t then pushed myself hard during some training sessions, very conscious of being able to get that long Sunday run of 16-22 miles. So pushing myself with new PBs when running alone I feel is a good achievement, we all know taking part in races and even parkrun you try and chase or catch the people in front of you and find yourself running just that little bit faster than if you are alone. I therefore feel I have won a massive psychological battle in that sense of pushing myself.
I guess a slight side note about the new personal best would be that they were all done in the Nike 4% trainers, so they really do work as feel so comfortable and you give you more spring, but not forgetting the psychological boost of it as well knowing that I can easily run faster in them? Both facts have resulted in pushing myself and then actually realising later that I could have probably pushed even harder and further. That is certainly what I plan on doing going forward.
Tokyo had sent out packs which contained the t-shirt and poncho along with the official programme among other random things in the box. It actually kept me entertained for a few days tracking it all the way from Japan! When it arrived as well it was quite exciting but also incredibly sad. To hold the race number for a race you were not allowed to run and how happy you should have been collecting all of this at the expo and then the finish line of the run.
The races I was signed up to that have also been cancelled are the Sunderland Half (which I took part in virtually) even though they had postponed until September. It was on Berlin Marathon day so I had that deferred to 2021, then Berlin has been cancelled and luckily my charity Alzheimer’s Society have just transferred my place to 2021. The Great North Run was the other big one which was going to be my 10th in a row, but by that point it was obvious it could not take place in September.
As well as setting new PBs across the different distance and running 1 mile under 7 minutes, I am aiming to push for 6:30 that has to be my next big target. I have also done some strength and conditioning sessions as well as kettlebells. Not forgetting eventually getting on the track and wow that certainly does push your legs, body and mind! Setting new monthly and weekly mileage totals which was certainly topped off with taking part in the virtual Race to the Stones an ultra event and I did the 100km across 7 days, which meant running 9 miles or just under each day. This was a fantastic challenge and I really do have so much respect for anyone who does this all in one day! May was Runr’s Miles For Mind which really helped me log plenty of monthly miles when I signed up for the 150 mile challenge!
My previous run streaks have only really occurred during RED January, which is a whole different type of challenge during the winter months I guess. That was something that I did not do this year with the preparation for Tokyo. Although it is quite amazing that your legs just seem to get stronger and stronger when you run each day. I have used a lot of Epsom salt though! I would find this type of thing a little bit tougher as even on my rest days from running I can easily cover up to 10 miles just from working. So I guess I don’t ever really have proper rest days of not really moving very far. I am hoping this time period will certainly have improved my overall cardiovascular fitness. The best thing though with not really having anywhere else to go is that I have plenty of lovely routes not far from my home, being able to get to the seafront in just over a mile as well is heaven.
The virtual Sunderland half I decided to treat it like a race day and got up really early to make sure I was out of the house and started before it got busy anywhere. I mean that ended up not really mattering when it was bouncing down with rain and very windy throughout. To put it another way it was brutal! I decided to do a route through into Sunderland coming out at Seaburn to run back to South Shields, as soon as I turned onto Roker next to the beach I was running into the wind and rain. This is when I realised how much my psychological strength had grown. Some of my splits were just amazing and I set an incredible new PB on what is a tough hilly route, certainly more hilly than the actually Sunderland route! Virtual Blaydon Race, another that was cancelled so we could run anywhere on the 9th Joon and still had the option for a t-shirt. So this was something that I could not help but take part in. This race also just deferred entries until 2021.
Something else truly outstanding happened as well during this streak and I had my first ever running fall!! I know managing to go 10.5 years before falling whilst out running is probably quite the achievement. But I ran through the pedestrian tunnel and all the way to Newcastle, my first glimpse of the Quayside in months saw me then trip and hit the floor. Although I think I jumped up even quicker than I went down. I only lost a few seconds on elapsed time according to Strava and had another five miles to go before finishing the long run. Trying to check if the blood was running down my leg so it didn’t look strange to people. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I actually realised that my trainers were all worn on one side. Quick order some new ones! Delivery was a little bit slower at this point, which meant I just had to be careful!
Science in Sport is something else I have relied on a lot to keep me going through this and not just using gels, I have kept them more for the half marathon’s and then the Race to the Stones event just with it being a big physical challenge. Each morning I have started the day with the Go Electrode drinks to get me ready to go. Something that has changed throughout the lockdown was that to begin with I was running more at lunchtime but it was way too busy with people so I go out earlier now. Not quite back at my 6am runs with the 5am alarms but starting between 7:30-8:30am.
I haven’t fully been alone though as I have had some advice and plenty of support from so many amazing runners, Instagram and Twitter really do help to keep you going as long as you block out the negativity. I have had one run out with other runners as well which at the time was truly amazing as I hadn’t actually seen many people.
So what did I do during lockdown? I ran a lot of miles!