Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was a cold, rainy and breezy morning at Aberdeen beach. Not really the best conditions for the regular parkrun event, but maybe around one hundred and fifty of us turned up to run round. Before we set off I chatted with a few people I knew and I ran it with a friend. Until Tuesday night this week, this was the last time I ran with more than two other people.
I took things like parkrun, races and my regular runs with my JogScotland group very much for granted. It was just something that you did. It was very normal, nothing special. They had all become part of my regular running routine. And then everything stopped.
Being asthmatic, I have tried to be cautious all the way through the pandemic. While the running groups started back up last year – before being curtailed – I did not go back, and even when they resumed in a socially distanced way a few months back I did not return. My choice.
“my chance to give something back”
Now I am fortunate enough – and old enough – to have received both vaccinations for COVID and while I am still cautious, I decided a few weeks ago that I would like to go back. I would like to experience again the joy of group running once more. Also, having recently attended a Leadership in Running Fitness course run by Scottish Athletics, this was now my chance to give something back to the group which has helped my running a lot.
Therefore, on Tuesday night, I took out my first group of nine runners for a six mile route at my JogScotland club. The lead coach from the club came with me – and there were two other run leaders in the group as well – and it was nice to have that reassurance that they were there to help me if things did not go to plan.
I planned my route a couple of days before, trying to build in a mix of road and trails (though I am much more a fan of road than trails when it comes to running) and attempting to get as close to six miles as I could.
There was a little bit of paperwork to do, making sure you note down everyone who is there and asking some questions around COVID to make sure we keep everyone safe, then off we went. Two things then went a bit awry. First, my Fitbit did not properly connect to my phone so I was not 100% sure how accurate the distance was, and then worse, I had not properly tied my shorts so they kept falling down over my backside!! A quick stop to fix them was needed about a mile and a half in as I was so sick of having to haul them up or else I would have been mooning anyone behind us!! Then I needed to sprint to catch up with group and make sure I kept them on the route I planned.
That apart, the pace was a little bit quicker than I had planned, but as everyone in the group had run six (and further) it was not too much of a problem I think. Once I managed to get back to the front of the group, I used that chance to try and slow things down slightly.
“it was really great”
But the main thing was just how much I enjoyed it. It really zipped by. I remember thinking, at about halfway round the run, “god, I have really missed this kind of feeling.” Being in among a fun group of pleasant, motivated people having a chat, a bit of banter, on a nice night. It was really great.
Everyone was very kind on the run and I just about got the distance bang on, with a few people lapping the car park at the end to get to 10km, slightly further than the six mile mark. Overall, it was a really positive experience. It is slightly stressful knowing that you are the one who is leading the group, but it was another step towards normality and I cannot wait to be able to do it again.
Generally this week, my running has felt that much better than it did last week. I am definitely putting that down to a hangover from my second jab and the really warm spell of weather. While the weather is still warm, I have felt so much more comfortable while running this week and I have also had some quick runs too with a couple of friends.
Conditions have also been really nice – a bit cooler than it has been thankfully – and on Saturday morning, the views were very special through the trail section of the run through the moors. I am extremely lucky to be able to run in some of these places.
It is probably just as well I feel a bit better with my running as this week marks the formal start of training for the Manchester Marathon. As I have mentioned before I do not plan to change much of my usual running routine during the week, but to begin to build up the distance on my Sunday runs.
Two other friends from the club are also doing the race so it will be nice to share the training experience with them and we plan to do our long runs together. It is a daunting prospect, knowing what is ahead, but as this is my fourth marathon at least I know what to expect. Every race is different. The months of preparation throw different challenges at you. But I also have additional motivation this year.
One of my best friends died suddenly on Christmas Eve. Donald John and I had known each other for more than thirty years, so I am running this race in his memory and raising funds for a charity which meant a lot to him, Mental Health Aberdeen. He was a passionate supporter and their president for a number of years. When things are tough in training and in the race, I will think of DJ and that will keep me going. If you would like to make a donation, this is a link to my JustGiving page.
The race is four months away, I really hope it goes ahead as an in-person event, but even if it moves to a virtual event, whatever happens, on Sunday, October 10, I will be running twenty six point two miles in memory of the best of friends.