runners heading into the light

All things must pass

Recently Chris Broadbent worried that running had an uncertain future, despite this week's reversals Terry Brennan disagrees and looks on the bright side.

It's been a black week. The hopes of summer and the retreat of coronavirus had the general public looking to normal times in the not too distance future. And the running community expecting an early return of club and group activity, events and parkrun.

Those hopes of the kind of autumn we're used to – comfortable running conditions, a big race target and lots of smaller local events – have been dashed. And late September clouds have given impetus to our correspondent Chris Broadbent's view, expressed in his recent 'Uncertainty as we look for the great running thaw' runTalk article.

Chris concluded: "Running, of course, will survive. But will it thrive again?'. Many readers thought Chris was being overly pessimistic; Paul Clarke commented: "Crikey, talk about being negative. I've just done a Covid safe 10K this morning with reduced runners and staggered starts. It was a great event. Got to make the best of the situation and full racing will eventually come back (like every other industry) whether this situation ends or we just live with it."

So was Paul's retort to Chris's downbeat view premature and over optimistic? I don't think so.

Sure it looks like it may be some time before the event calendar starts to shake off that horrible 'Postponed/Cancelled' look, but it will, and when that happens and we line-up once again at the Great South Run or the Market Drayton 10K or Liverpool Half or Edinburgh Marathon, we'll do it with a regard we didn't have before. We couldn't have because before those events were always there for us to choose or reject as the mood took us.

Now like so much in life runners can, in their absence, really appreciate those group runs, weekly parkruns and target events. An appreciation borne out of having to go without for so long. Be assured clubs, and parkrun, and big race days will be back. And with one hell of a bang!

They might not agree on much but prime minister Boris Johnson and Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon have both underlined that a brighter future is ahead and that coronavirus will not blight our lives indefinitely. They're right – whether it's via a robust vaccine, more effective treatments, developed immunity or simply an acceptance of COVID-19 as part of life like influenza – headline writers will uncover new monsters in 2021, and beyond, to give us sleepless nights.

Hopefully some of those headlines will be about the return of sport – bigger, more influential and more ubiquitous than ever. Answering Chris Broadbent's question –  running WILL thrive again. And across broader landscapes and in a more powerful way.

How can we justify that bold statement?

One positive of the coronavirus crisis has been an enhanced sense of community. Innumerable examples of support for the vulnerable, while in terms of COVID-safety measures, notwithstanding the self-interested few, the actions of the vast majority have been sensible, considered and public-spirited.

Hopefully renewed community spirit will serve us well when we look for event volunteers, club officials and parkrun enablers in the coming years. We'll need them as we look to satisfy the pent-up demand that 2020 is continuing to store. Demand to continue exercise regimes started during lockdown, to join running clubs and groups, to add to the parkrun family and to sign up for races either as a frustrated regular or an enthusiastic first timer.

Plus recent months have seen us experiment with all kinds of new approaches in technology, event organisation and group dynamics.

Virtual racing, once thought of as the preserve of the bling-obsessed, is now mainstream. And it has sired numerous offspring – hybrids that combine some of the elements of real events like running on the race route but at different times. A plethora of new apps has spiced up the virtual scene while the chance to run different distances has turned ultra runners into 5k flyers and millers into marathoners.

It is hoped too that the ravages of coronavirus will lead to the general population taking greater care of their own health and well-being. And in shaking our complacency is it too fanciful to suggest that coronavirus might see us look differently on the health of our planet and build a greater general appetite for sustainability?

The running landscape is certain to be different from the one we knew pre-2020 but all the signs are that it will be stronger and more able to contribute to a better, healthier society. We should be preparing for that new running landscape now.

Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

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