Back to nature
Is the pandemic helping runners to re-connect with nature?
With the complete wipe out of the competition calendar, including hundreds of parkruns each week, severe restrictions on track facilities and club activity severely curtailed, there has been far less emphasis on both road and track running (writes Chris Broadbent).
The lunchtime run for city centre workers is less commonplace, nor the evening mass runs with club colleagues. Whether they are furloughed or working more from home, runners have been forced to look closer to home for solo or socially-distanced runs with friends.
A PB (personal best) achieved in 2020 by any runner is looking like it might be a real rarity. Without times and medals to chase and travel restrictions in place, the options have been limited and motivations have changed.
Personally, I have found myself more typically drawn to greener surroundings, such as parks, trails and moorlands. With the forced hours at home, I have been eager to get a taste of nature and cannot recall taking a pure road run in urban surroundings since the lockdown began.
And with the complete absence of races, I have been more motivated by the enjoyment and wellbeing of running, not necessarily by speed and fitness. It has been a healthy habit. Though I look forward to reuniting with club mates and the camaraderie and competition of organised races, this has been a revitalising time for my running.
There is ample evidence of the benefits of exercising in nature. It improves self-esteem, relieves stress, improves your mood and enhances problem-solving and creativity skills. All traits we need in times like these.
Every cloud has a silver lining, they say. This cloud has had a green one.
Lockdown has been, for many of us, a time of discovery, as well as challenge. Those early days when the traffic - both human and mechanical - disappeared and streets and trails seemed eerily quiet meant a new interaction with the natural world.
For many that was simply the opportunity to appreciate the silence or tune in to the 'birdsong' festivals. For others a growing awareness of the parks, waterways, trails and woodlands that we were drawn too as other parts of our life – work, social interaction etc – receded. We started to enjoy the avenues of trees, the gurgling rivers, the varied woodland backdrops, the wildlife. A world that had been there all the time but that we pushed to the perimeter.
All of us to a greater or lesser extent developed a growing general awareness with many of us finding the pleasures of the natural world a new and welcome consolation. It would be good if those discoveries stayed with us as we moved forward.
Photo courtesy: Febiyan on Unsplash