Beyond the medal

Like many of you, I have had to refocus my running goals as summer races are postponed or cancelled. It’s got me thinking: how do we keep the momentum going on training when goal events go out the window?

Rewind to the last time things didn’t go to plan

Let’s go back to 19th December last year. I stopped dead during a run after slipping off a kerb. The injury was painful and I knew I’d need weeks of recovery before returning to normal training mileage. So, I decided to start a run streak the following day – make sense?

It might sound bonkers to attempt a run streak while injured, but I figured consistency, not speed or mileage was probably the way forward with Christmas just around the corner. I wanted to maintain focus, as well as attempting to mitigate the effects of festive weight gain.

At the beginning, those daily runs were short and slow, but I kept going. At the time of writing, I’ve just passed the 100-day milestone with an early morning socially distanced solo marathon (and, boy, did that feel good!)

And little did we know just how important things like run streaks would become. In the UK, we’re allowed out once a day to exercise alone or with members of our household, as well as to pick up essential supplies.

Applying the logic of consistency to strange times

Having started a run streak late last year, I was well on the way to forming a daily pattern that regulates both my physical and mental health. It gets me out and moving, which has become precious during this crisis. I’ve now been working at home for five weeks, and daily runs have enabled me to stay in control of my daily routine, get some head space, look after my diet, and give me good sleep.

My weight has plateaued at 85kg (I’m still looking to become a leaner, more efficient ultrarunner) thanks to home snacking and the odd Appero, but that’s OK. I’m still moving, and still aiming to lose 3kg gradually before the Kennet and Avon Canal Race 145 on 24th July (assuming that’s going ahead).

Since recovering from that injury back in January, I’ve significantly upped my weekly distance to roughly 55 miles. And I’ve still got some goals in the diary, thanks to the KACR145 in July (which, at the time of writing, may go ahead) and the epic CCC, currently still slated for the end of August.

I’m fortunate in lots of ways during this crisis, counting daily runs as a big part of that, giving me ample opportunity to improve my conditioning. And it’s paying off. My Strava Summit fitness score continues to improve – up 281% since a kidney issue meant a DNF at last year’s SDW100.

Doing new things, afresh

I’ve dusted off my water rower, and added two 30-minute row sessions to my weekly routine. It’s exercise I can do without leaving the house, meaning I’m around for my family and work if I need to be. And I’m well supported: my wife reckons I’d be impossible to live with if I wasn’t out and moving every day!

Whenever I increase my mileage in training, I drop the pace and intensity to allow my body to adjust to the new training load. That logic continues in lockdown. I can’t wait to get out each day, moving my work schedule around so I can make the most of the great outdoors; some days I start early so I can take a run in the lunchtime sun.

Encountering a sweaty runner isn’t great at the best of times, and now more than ever. I’m making a real effort to give anyone I encounter on my runs a wide berth.

Relaxing the rules

I’m trying to take the pressure off, and just run, taking in what’s going on around me. I normally run with my Suunto 9, but can see the value in a ‘no watch, no pace, just run’ style of running to really dial down the detail. One foot in front of the other certainly seems like the way to get through this crisis.

There are so many brilliant reasons to lace up your trail shoes and get going. It’s good for our physical health, as well as brilliantly refreshing for the mind. I hope you find your own reasons ‘why’ that go ‘beyond the medal’. Remember, events will be held again; this is just temporary.

Stay safe and healthy, and enjoy your running. My thoughts are with runners who, for various reasons, aren’t able to get out and about during this time. If the decision is taken to prevent or restrict daily outdoor exercise here in the UK, I’ll need to reassess how to keep focused and motivated, but this is the plan for now.

Let me know how running is helping you through these strange times…

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