Coronavirus week 12 - 8th to 14th June

What's new here up our hill in North Wales? Not a lot.  Last week we had a socially distanced cup of tea outside in the garden with some friends.  On Friday we bought take away fish and chips from our local cafe, brought it home and had a post fish and chips zoom call.  This was the first food we had eaten since lockdown which had not come out of our kitchen.  It is a good job that I generally like cooking.  On Friday lunchtime we sat down to listen to the First Minister's press conference, hoping to hear of some further relaxations to lockdown rules, only to realise that it is another week until the review date.  If we lived in England we would now be able to see our children and grandchildren, in a socially distanced way and outside, but here very local restrictions remain in place.  I don't generally have a problem with the slow and cautious way in which Wales is approaching its lockdown rules, indeed whether you agree or not, there does seem to be a more coherent and planned approach here than in England where the pressures to reopen the economy and the pressures to contain the outbreak are clearly at war with each other.  But on a purely personal note, I have had enough now.  I can manage without shopping and restaurants and pubs and sport and travel and many other things which make life entertaining, but I want my people.


So, casting around  for something to give the weeks point and purpose and to lift the mood, I have decided to return more seriously to running.  In January last year I started Couch to 5k, the programme designed to take non-runners from inactivity to running non-stop for thirty minutes.  I was sixty four, a bit overweight and I had never been sporty.  At school I was the girl sunning herself behind the tennis courts who had skipping games off to a fine art.  When we ran cross country I knew exactly where to disappear into the trees to have a dream in the sun for half an hour before rejoining the race at a point where I would arrive back at school at least a tiny bit warm and redfaced.  As an adult I discovered a love of walking and I have always liked being outside.  It was organised, competitive sport which left me cold.  So I am not entirely sure why I started couch to 5k except that I felt old and tired and slow and thought it would give me a kick up the pants.  I probably wouldn't have started at all, despite all that, had it not been that Ian had committed himself to running the Cardiff Half Marathon in October 2019 and C25k was his starting point.  I must have said that I would do it too.

Here is my blog from the very first time that I tried to run following Couch to 5k.  It is a great programme.  I managed to do all the nine weeks and finish it and then a couple of months later I managed to run 5k at a parkrun, very slowly, but I did it.  And somehow, rather to my surprise I seem to have become a runner.  For ages I was embarrassed to call myself a runner because I was so slow.  Surely runners are younger and fitter and faster than I am?  But after six months or so of regularly running three times a week I decided to take the view that a runner is what I am, still slow, but a runner.  Since then I have run by the Arno in Florence, on the Galician coast and in Salamanca in Spain, in Dublin, Devon and South Wales.  The culmination of running to date was running the Chester 10k in March, just before lockdown started.  I really didn't think I could do it and I was astonished and over the moon that I could.  And then the world shut down.

Lockdown has been a challenge.  The first couple of weeks were an emotional challenge.  I seemed to be using all my energy to adapt to our new reality and to keep my equilibrium.  I really didn't want to give up running because I know how much determination and commitment it has taken to get to this point and I was pretty sure that if I let it go I would struggle to do it again from scratch.  After a couple of weeks Ian and I began to walk up our hill (pretty steep for running for a runner like me) and run down.  Then Ian persuaded me that the thing to do was to combine running and walking from the house and to try to improve my time.  Every minute or so of improvement was evidence that I had run uphill for longer rather than walked, that I had run downhill faster.  Lockdown restrictions in those early weeks required us to exercise from home so all my usual training runs were off limits.  I found it hard to get into any kind of pattern with it but I did manage to get out a couple of times a week, sometimes with Ian and sometimes on my own. Every time I went out it was an effort but I felt that I was at least hanging on to some of my hard earned fitness.  Sometimes, as I ran down with the wind in my face and the valley spreading in shades of green around me, it even felt good.  The runs were shorter than I had been doing but at some point you hit the steepness of  the hills at the top of our hill, of Penycloddiau or Moel y Parc,  and they defeat me, but at least I hadn't given up.


And now we are once more allowed to drive short local distances in order to exercise so this week I have run twice on my usual stamping grounds: once at Lady Bagot's Drive by the river and once in the back roads near Caerwys, my local small town.  It was good to be out again and I find that I have not lost my fitness, even if I haven't improved either.  I will take simply not having gone backwards in this strange and challenging time.

So I thought I would channel some of my frustrated energy into getting back to running three times a week, following a programme to get me back to being able to run 10k.  If you see me I will be the one with the tomato coloured face and the bright coloured leggings.  I am not competing with anyone so it doesn't really matter that I am slow.  I am running for myself, for feeling better and sharper, for proving to myself that I can stick to it however hard it is, for feeling more alive.  10k, here I come again.

Comments

  1. You inspired me to want to do the couch to 5k thing. I began gearing up to it - including bursts of running in my walks, bought a pair of running shoes . . . enjoyed trotting along . . . then broke my arm. Then there was lockdown - not only that, I was shielded. So I've gone very backwards. However the person I was going to be doing it with was able to carry on and she's thrilled to be running. She too disliked sports at school and is staggered that she could ever find running a pleasure - which she now does. When my arm eases up more, maybe I'll be able to do a bit of running on the moors - but I think it will be a while before I am able to practice in the streets again.
    Congratulations that you persisted. And congratulations that you are getting back into it now the restrictions are lessening.
    Hope you can see your family soon.

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    1. How great to hear that you are thinking about running! I definitely found it hard and yet it was always a kind of hard I could manage and now I would not be without it. That's not because I'm athletic at all and yet when I run I feel strong. I really hope you can get to it. And for me outside is important and you have some great bits of outside where you are, when you can get to them. Fingers crossed it won't be too long.

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  2. Well done with the running. I never did any sports at school but our family always walked - I still enjoy walking and still do not like running - I find it too hard on the joints - on the whole body. We did start skipping though (with a rope) during Lockdown and I will carry on with that but think I have left it too late to start running. Perhaps if I had some stimulus to do it but I haven't.

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    1. I like the idea of skipping! That reminds me of childhood. Mind you, skipping might be a bit bouncy on the joints too! I think the important thing is to find an exercise that you love and walking is meant to be one of the best (and cheapes !).

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  3. I admire your fortitude Elizabeth - I too was never a great athlete; the closest I came was playing in the school netball team, but as for hockey.....
    I have often thought I should try running but it has never got any further than a thought. I'm with Susan on this one. Brisk walking is what I do to hopefully keep reasonably fit - plus some Pilates.
    I also found last week hard. The weather was cold and wet for much of the time and the greyness outdoors was echoed by my mood for much of the time.
    In and effort to keep occupied and reduce my self absorption I began to look through old materials I've used as part of my training practice over the years. I came across an item on transitions, used as part of a development programme for radiographers. Much of what was on the handout described exactly how I was feeling - I'd hit the third phase in the transition process - that of a feeling of depression or "informed pessimism". Having to adjust to the new reality.
    What had made the whole adjustment to the coronavirus situation worse for me was the prevailing mood in the country. The anti racism protests being followed by extreme right wing reactions and associated actions have left me feeling unhappy, worried and with a sense of real dislike of being part of a country where such obvious division exists. And concerns over how the pandemic is being handled by the government are also part of the mix.
    What helped me get out of the downward spiral was contact, by phone, Zoom and yesterday face to face (hurrah) with family and friends. People are what pull me through - as well as brisk walking!

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    1. I am very taken by the phrase "informed pessimism"! And I do recognise my own feelings in much of what you say. I dislike the sense of a fractured country, hate the idea that racism and inequality are a reality for many, don't feel able to trust what I'm being told by the government. They were committed to supporting the social care sector from the start? Really? Is a little humility and an apology entirely incompatible with politics now? So I run, I zoom, I try to cook good food and read good books. I make a crocheted mouse for one of my grandsons and try to live the small things well.

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  4. Next week we will come into the "new normality" in Spain. So, the "state of alarm" will be over although the Covid-19 and infections will continue appearing. Mask and social distancing have become part of our daily habits . I ´m already organizing get togethers with family and friends. I´m not going to do Couch 5K, but I will meet some friends to carry on table tennis and yoga classes.
    I´m very pleased about all that, although the shadow of so many deaths and infections are still there.

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    1. How good it would be to emerge from lockdown! When you say you are organising get togethers with family and friends I wonder whether you are able to meet indoors yet or must still be outside? I must ask you! I would love to be able to restart yoga classes and pilates too. At the moment I must focus on running because it can be a solitary activity!

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  5. Congrats on your successes! I have succeeded too... in gaining 20 pounds during quarantine. I'm not built to be a runner, but I'm good at lifting (food into my face). This will also help the economy, as it turns out, because I will have to buy bigger clothes in order to re-enter society. It's all about the silver lining, and I've got that too, since I stopped dyeing my hair!

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    1. How good to hear from you Marcheline! I am quite interested to find out what my natural hair colour is as I have been colouring it for so long I couldn't really remember! Turns out I am not grey but just a little darker than I would like. At the start of this I wondered if stopping colouring my hair would make me decide to give it up entirely but I don't think so. I rather miss my blonde!

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