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Alan Newman BMAF Road Relay 2019

Keep calm and carry on – 2021 has to be better

runABC South writer Alan Newman (pictured) with his personal reflections on a year like no other

What an exhausting, emotional, astonishing year we have experienced, totally dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic that rampaged across our shores like a wildfire from March and which seems to be in no hurry to relinquish its fearful embrace as we enter 2021. 

Looking back, we saw the best of people as an estimated 10 million volunteers gave their time to support communities that were on their knees and key workers battled to not only retain a semblance of normality but keep essential services going against seemingly impossible odds. 

Amazingly, running events continued where it was safe and permitted by the authorities. In the vacuum created by the absence of live events, runners adapted and adopted new skills with technology to participate virtually in a huge range of events. In some cases, perhaps driven by an innate survival instinct, many of us ran further and faster than ever before!

That certainly was the case at the elite level as an extraordinary number of world records (16) were destroyed by large margins, as summarised by our reporter Alan here. 

But let's go back to the beginning of the year when we were looking forward to an epic Tokyo 2020 Olympics, postponed for the first time in Olympic history to open on 23 July 2021. Superb world-class fields were announced in January for a historic 40th Virgin Money London Marathon – due on 26 April – eventually held as an elite-only race on 4 October, featuring a mid-race implosion by the previously impregnable Eliud Kipchoge.

The first COVID-19 lockdown was legally enforced in England on 26 March and all mass participation events were suspended. We had to quickly acquire all manner of new social skills and etiquette as an understandably shocked and concerned nation saw runners as a threat. 

Contributor and coach Alan did his best to help us through the dog days with this advice in April that is equally pertinent today. Our reporter even put out a heartfelt plea for mutual respect and a better sense of perspective after this personally worrying incident in May.

After a near normal summer of glorious weather; increasing confidence; socially-distanced races and a general sense that the worst was behind us, we entered the autumn months with the coronavirus storm clouds gathering once again. A second national lockdown in November was followed by an ever-changing tiered system of localised restrictions and the immediate future looks bleak with record numbers of infections, particularly in the south and southeast. 

However, runners are generally resilient and optimistic types and with the successful rollout of the brilliant vaccines that have been developed with warp speed this year, we will soon be in a far better position.        

We hope you have enjoyed our reports, news, and advice in 2020. Don't forget you can sign up to receive our free e-Newsletter and you can start planning your 2021 comeback by visiting our comprehensive race listing facility.  

Finally, runABC South wishes all readers a safe, happy, and healthy New Year.

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