Coronovirus dominating thoughts

At the end of last week’s blog, I reported on my plans for my personal marathon on 19 April in the event that the Boston UK marathon is cancelled. By Tuesday morning, as the evolving situation worsened, I was suffering from a lack of motivation but I managed to get myself out of the door anyway and did my 10km run including three brisk 2km sessions within in.

Wednesday was difficult too, but I did my slow 10km. Thursday I did 13km to Hessett and back at target marathon pace, but not feeling the joy.

Friday at work was dominated by dealing with coronavirus issues, and so escaping from that on Saturday was a day of mixed emotions. With increasingly desperate actions being taken around the world to limit freedom of movement, and reports that Italy has effectively decided to let those over 80 with Covid-19 die because they don’t have the resources to treat everyone, the UK approach is standing out as rather different. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, despite the opinions of so many amateur epidemiologists, but by Saturday morning there were growing noises that the UK would impose limits on public gatherings soon as have many other countries.

So my journey to Harrow Lodge parkrun to meet with Catherine, Alex, and the Eltham gang is quite likely to be the last parkrun for some time – already parkrun is suspended in most countries around the world. Online, I’ve seen a number of people in Italy posting Strava links to their rooftops runs – 80+ laps of the apartment block rooftop for a 5km run, as the Italian government won’t allow people to go out for a run, on their own, even in the middle of night. Spain is banning its citizens from leaving their house except to buy food or medicines or travel to work. These are worrying times, and strange ones for liberal democracies.

Harrow Lodge Park is pleasant, even on a gloomy overcast day, with a delightful lake. The majority of the route is on grass, and parts were rather muddy and it was occasionally a struggle to stay upright. After I’d finished, I went to find the others and jogged round with them chatting with Catherine. When it came to scan my finish token, I found that it had no number on it, and the barcode was so degraded it wouldn’t scan. Fortunately I’d heard the timer calling to the person giving out finish tokens soon after I’d crossed the line that someone was 40th, so I reckoned I must be about 37th and they noted that down.

The risk from being outdoors with a couple of hundred people, mostly spread thinly around a park, has to be very small. Those small risks that there are, perhaps including handling the finish tokens, could be mitigated with practical measures, but political pressure in the UK is growing not only to act but to be seen to be acting. But the risks associated aren’t zero and there is logic to the view that the cumulative impact of lots of small reductions in risk collectively have a significant effect.

We went to the café and had second breakfast and a lot of chat – very convivial, though significantly riskier than the parkrun itself if thinking of CV – with my amateur expert hat on, it would seem that better than banning large open-air gatherings would be to close down all semi-public enclosed spaces such as cafés, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, clubs – and public transport.

In the café the results processing was taking place, with a bit of difficulty since in addition to my problem (easily resolved – it turns out I was 36th) someone had been scanned as 107th when there were only 105 finishers and one of the Australians present clearly was linked to a different parkrun than she’d claimed, and the results processor had ended up having to start all over again. He was also doing double duty for the café staff, calling out order numbers in his loud voice while the timid staff could barely be heard. A very good bacon baguette when it arrived – a parkrun to go back to one day with Lucy, in dry weather as I don’t think she’d have enjoyed today’s mud.

So, possibly for the last time for months, I departed parkrun, my 117th location on my 174th run. When will be 175th?

Meanwhile, the Boston UK marathon have stopped taking bookings (for the half and fun run; the full distance was already fully booked) and postponed a marshals meeting, pending news from the government on whether the event will go ahead.

With five weeks to go till marathon day, my long run on Sunday was to the seaside, to Walton-on-the-Naze and along the front past Frinton-on-Sea, Holland-on-Sea, and Clacton-on-Sea to the unhyphenated Jaywick, and then back.

It was rather breezy – my app said 22mph winds – but it was the right way around, being in my face on the outward leg and behind me on the return leg. In a few sections there was a lot of soft deep sand on the prom, but mostly it was without difficulties, and I managed to keep churning out the kilometres very consistently, all 30 of them between 6:50/km and 6:57/km.

It was definitely easier than a fortnight ago, hopefully because the training continues to have an effect, though perhaps that wind being behind in the second half today but in my face towards the end a fortnight ago was a small factor too.

Now I’m making my peace with the idea of long runs being deliberately slower than target race pace, with confidence given by the two quick races, it’s rather nice not to be pushing the pace, and relishing just being out and enjoying the views. Certainly the impact afterwards is so much more muted – I went straight back home, showered and changed, then went out to ring a quarter peal. Only mild tiredness, no sore toes or other body parts, no insatiable hunger which used to plague me after long runs. The running is looking good – if only other things in the world were looking as rosy.

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