'You don't know what you've got til it's gone'. Chris Broadbent is missing his club sessions.
From a purely running perspective, the postponements of the Olympic Games and London Marathon and the ongoing pause on parkrun are the dominant and depressing headlines of the pandemic (writes Chris Broadbent).
Yet, the biggest social impact for many people connected to the sport, is the loss of weekly club activity. Social distancing and lockdown have effectively shut down athletics and running as we know them.
And for hundreds of thousands, it leaves a great hole in their lives. Strong bonds are formed at running clubs and it is easy to understand why. A group of people with a shared interest meet on a regular basis, they get active together - sometimes suffer together, but ultimately enjoy a happy hour or two, fuelled by endorphins.
It is an intoxicating experience and - speaking personally - I always feel in better spirits whenever I have attended my club’s twice weekly sessions. My own club has a strong social side with weekly gatherings in the bar after Wednesday night sessions, it also organises event club trips and many other social activities outside of training.
They have come up with creative ways for the club members to stay connected and involved – and you have to wonder how we would all have coped pre-social media. So, virtual races, some (very) insightful member interviews online and even quizzes via video link. All wonderful, but of course not quite the same.
As well as being a pillar in the social lives of scores of its membership, the club has been a real crutch when individuals have gone through difficult times in their personal lives. Our club will not be alone of course. Hundreds of vibrant clubs across the country and their members are going through exactly the same situation.
Of course, the absence of family and friends in our regular lives is felt hardest. But the lack of the regular club contact and activity will also take its toll. We must all hope that members return in good health and good spirits when club activities are safe to resume.