A week of running and Covid-19

So, what’s been in the news this week? Very little reporting of my running in week 9 of the 16-week training plan, but a fair bit on Covid-19. Let’s start with my running.

Tuesday saw me travelling to Bury for my favoured hill. I park so that I have a 1.5km warm-up run to the bottom of the hill, and today I ran at top speed for 90 seconds up the hill, jogged back down, and repeated nine times, for ten in all. “Top speed” should mean the maximum I can run consistently for the 10 ascents, making the first one a bit of a challenge to get right, but I think it was broadly correct, each being just under 5:15/km which is good going for me uphill. Then the 1.5km jog back to the car.

Wednesday I took Brindley to the King’s Forest, where we ran 11km. I had my running harness on, but let him run free. I wasn’t certain how this would go, as it was the first time I’d tried to run with him without a lead, and the one time I’d tried it a few years ago with one of the other dogs (Hetty, I think), she’d just sat down and refused to move any further. Brindley loved it though. As it was a slow run, only about 6:50/km, he walked or trotted a good deal, doing relatively little running, so although it was his furthest run by some way, it was shorter than his longest walk, and he didn’t seem remotely challenged by it, and was still full of energy when we got home. He found several deer during our outing, and adopted a very deer-like four legged high bound through the undergrowth as he briefly chased – a quite amusing gait which I’ve not seen before in a dog.

Brindley with a herd of deer in the distance

Thursday saw wet snow falling, and so I ran my 13km at 6:20/km (hopefully marathon pace) on the treadmill at the gym – not exciting, but effective in keeping me warm and dry. It was my last run in February but meant that I ran further than I’ve run before in a calendar month.

Saturday was my first non-parkrun day since mid-October, as I was on a bellringing outing, including calling 42-spliced doubles and an apt quarter of Leap Year Surprise Minor.

Sunday was long-run day, and for the fourth weekend in a row, the UK was being battered by a storm. On this occasion, East Anglia didn’t have it too bad, and Storm Jorge (named by the Spanish), was looking mainly to trouble me with winds. I took to the Cambridge guided busway – nice and simple, and though with a few roads to cross, largely traffic free, though with relatively little shelter from the moderate winds.

I’d expected the bridleway that runs alongside the busway to be closed by flooding as, astonishingly, it is expected to be for 66 days a year in the construction plans, so had planned a right turn at Swavesey to go to Over and back, but I managed to forge through and just about reached the spot on the busway that I’d once reached from St Ives. As a result the run was slightly further than originally planned in the spirit of exploration, and so my tally for the day was 30km, resulting in the longest distance I’ve yet run in a week.

The last 5km was quite tough, with facing a 20mph headwind combining with tiring legs, but I managed to maintain my pace at the expense of my heart-rate climbing from about 121 to 129. My knees grumbled a little bit, but I think I’m managing to avoid their niggles getting any worse. Not for the first time, my second toes on both feet suffered a little with their ends rubbing on my socks, despite having put lots of Bodyglide on them and deliberately pulling the socks down to give more room for my toes to move. I think I’m going to investigate some new socks before the big day.

The flooded track

The run wasn’t desperately hard but was not easy despite being a good deal slower than marathon target pace, and after last weekend’s success, leaves me a bit more anxious again about the ability to run 42.2km at the faster pace. It was my 3rd fastest 30km, faster than either of the two marathons, so there’s lot of positives to take away too.

Over Windmill, which dates from c. 1870, on the gentle climb away from the gravel pits, heading back towards Longstanton from Swavesey

And so to the second theme – Covid-19. It’s been a week where the news has been dominated by the spread of the disease. The number of cases in the UK has climbed proportionately very quickly (it’s up 50% in the last two days) but still very low numbers of detected cases, albeit with growing hints of community transmission suggesting that a wave of cases not associated with travel to China or Italy or other hotspots is coming soon. France has banned gatherings of more than 5000 people, and Switzerland has set the bar at 1000.

The UK government has so far set the balance point in a different place than some other countries between risk of disease spread and risk of significant social and economic impact from restrictions – and any such restrictions might have to last months. But with my marathon being still 7 weeks away, will large gatherings still be happening by then? Will a predominately outdoor event with a couple of thousand entrants (plus crowds) across the three distance be considered large enough to ban?

The truth is, no-one knows. Clearly the outbreak is going to get worse, but how much worse, and how quickly, is the great unknown. From a selfish perspective, I want family and friends to remain safe; there are potential restrictions I’d rather avoid on planned holidays, on running races, on the gym, on bellringing, on Lucy’s dog shows and concerts; work activities could be constrained. I hope in most ways that those people who are dismissive of the risk get proved right. The “realistic worst case scenario” of 70% of the population getting the disease and 1% dying (half a million people), is, by it’s nature of being “worst case”, unlikely to happen, but more likely is a prolonged moderate outbreak with some social restrictions to reduce the peak. Let’s hope it proves less bad than so many experts seem to fear.

In the meantime, purely from my running perspective, I keep my fingers crossed, and continue the training. Lucy and I have already talked about a private 42.2km run on 19 April if the event is cancelled or postponed, with Lucy as my water station and crowd support.