An alternative running project for Coronavirus times

Running has always been a great way to de-stress and take some valuable time out from our busy days. In times of challenge getting our daily dose of fresh air is just as important, but we do have to be adaptable and accept that our usual running freedom takes second place to the Government guidelines for Covid-19.As runners we love to plan, set goals and put our energy on the next big thing. But with an empty race calendar for the foreseeable future, could April be an opportunity to step back from the “next big thing” and pay some attention to all the other things?

Take a step back

To help our body and mind keep up with our lofty running ambitions, now is the perfect chance to put our running future on pause and catch up on all the running projects that we never seem to get the time to tackle. We have an opportunity to hit the re-set button on our running journey, take stock off what we have achieved to date and decide what we really want to achieve in the future. This may be the only time we ever get to take a step back from our regular routine so let’s seize the opportunity. We often cut corners on the elements of training that don’t give the quick wins. We like to follow the clock and the statistics, but there is a lot more to running than counting the miles.

Making the time

We are saving time this month by running shorter distances, running locally and not spending time commuting to training or lazing over post-run coffees with our running buddies. What have you been doing with these extra hours? Can you account for them or has this time been absorbed into your busy day? Without our usual routines in place, it is harder to make time for ourselves. Let’s aim to reclaim some of this time over the next four weeks and put it to good use. It’s time to find a running project which motivates you that doesn’t involve putting on your running shoes.

Make it enjoyable

This exercise is not meant to be a challenge or a hardship. Choose something you really want to do. What would you love to learn more about if you had more time? What do you feel is holding back your running? Have you even taken the time to look back over all you have achieved over the years? By investing a little time, who knows what opportunities it might open up for you down the line. Success in this plan is not hitting any big milestone. Each time slot you adhere to is as good as a run. Minutes rather than mileage is our measure of success this month and even 10 minutes a day will make a huge dent over a month.

What type of project?

If running motivation is your issue, you might like to watch running movies or organise your old running memorabilia to relive the memories. If you are more concerned about injury, take the time to build a strength and mobility routine that you will actually stick to. If you have ambitions to write about running, then start a journal or a running blog. If you have plenty of running gadgets or manuals, could it be time to dust off the foam roller or dig out some of the running books that originally inspired you to start running? You might like to experiment with recipes for healthy running snacks or finally get around to decluttering all the old running gear. You could frame some running photos or get in contact with running buddies you haven’t connected with in years. You could look at giving back to the running community by researching volunteer options. If you want to gain more knowledge in a technical area of running, start your research. The options are endless.

Get it on paper

The days and weeks since Covid-19 arrived have started to blur. I’m never quite sure what day of the week it is. By the end of the month it may be hard to remember what we did with our free time unless we make a conscious effort to schedule it. Wouldn’t it be great to use this time as the opportunity to get a new perspective on our running by focussing on what we can do rather than what is off limits for now? It is time to re-jig the training plan. Keep up your local brief runs where safe and possible to do so, but also identify the time slots where you will work on your project. Commit to each of these time slots just like they are a scheduled run in the diary.

Create your future

Moving the focus off the road and taking the time to look back at our achievements, our memories and our lessons learned is not wasted time. It will help us return to the road with gusto in the future. Because let’s be honest, once we all regain our running freedom, there will be no stopping us. All the attention will be back on mileage and milestones. There will be less time for reflection. Who knows what May will bring, but wouldn’t it be great to head into it knowing April didn’t pass in a blur and your running has taken a few steps forward by actually taking a step back?

This article was first published in The Irish Times on 7th April 2020