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2021: I’m not ready for races

17 March 2021

Are you looking forward to racing again? Because I am not.

It’s now been a year since the the race I trained for – the 2020 Peterborough Marathon – was postponed for the first time due to coronavirus. It was moved from 5 April to 13 September 2020 “with the hope that this will give you something exciting and challenging to look forward to and plan for.” On 1 July 2020, in the face of continued uncertainty, it was deferred to 11 April 2021. In January 2021, “in these trying times”, it was moved to 23 May 2021.

Happier times at the 2019 Langtoft 10k

It now looks like it will go ahead, under strict social distancing measures in 9 weeks’ time. Sublime Racing have been exemplary race organisers: keeping runners informed, making sensible and sensitive decisions, putting the families and health of their volunteers first. As a runner, I haven’t had to do anything other than move a date in my calendar.

Actually, wait a minute, wasn’t there was something else I was supposed to do for the race? For the marathon? For the 26.2 mile marathon? I can’t remember anything these days unless it’s on a list. Er, hang on, was I supposed to train for it? Because I haven’t done that.

It was all fun with Joe Wicks to begin with…

The past year, but especially the past few months of lockdown in England, have been stressful and depressing. Working from home + schooling from home + exercise restrictions = a lot of pressure on time outside. Sometimes I wanted to run, sometimes to walk, sometimes just to escape, but always to feel better. Running slowly made me feel good, but running fast or hard did not.

I used to enjoy the feeling of running hard, of pushing myself. But now it just makes me feel bad. Partly because I am physically struggling. I have no bounce, no zip, no strength. But mostly, it’s mental. I am so much slower, so much weaker, and I hate it. It makes me want to give up. I can’t imagine not feeling like this. It feels insurmountable.

For many of us, normal life has stopped, slowed down, and moved to a tiny screen. 170 miles of daily commuting shrunk to 17 metres from bed to desk. No more cycling to the station, walking to the office, running to meetings, dashing for the school run. No trips to the shop for a can of coke, a lunchtime coffee, a sandwich, a breath of fresh air. No popping round, no dropping off, no picking up.

I have been running. But that is all the exercise I am doing. On a good day, I think, “I’m like a Kenyan athlete! I just eat, run and sleep”. But I’ve forgotten about the sitting – so much sitting – and I’m definitely overselling the running.

I’m averaging 33 miles a week and I’m doing a long run (12 miles +) most weekends. But I know I am not fit enough to run a marathon. I could run/walk it and get round, but I’ve finished enough marathons to know that this would be painful, and I would not enjoy it. After all this time not racing, wouldn’t it be fun to do the race just for fun? Yes, yes it would. But would it be fun? Oh, reader, it would not.

Yet.

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