Christine Appel

Lessons from Lockdown 4: running with the new normal

runABC Scotland's Christine runs with her club again and finds good cheer ... but no cake

Driving to my first club session in over five months on Tuesday night, I started to wonder what Phase 3’s much vaunted ‘return to sport’ would look like for me. 

On the face of it, nothing had changed: my club would be running one of our usual routes in one of Aberdeenshire’s many beautiful forests, at the usual time, on the usual day.

But it was never really going to be business as usual. Following scottishathletics’ Phase 3 guidelines, the evening’s coaches made it clear when they posted notice of the session on our club Facebook page that numbers would be restricted to a strictly pre-booked 15.   

Parked in my usual spot at the Bennachie Centre, I waited in my car until just before our session was due to start. I’d like to say that my determination to be beyond reproach in my COVID compliance kept me in my battered old Volvo estate until the last possible second, but in truth, my sprint to the start was as much about hiding from the midges as anything else.

On my journey over to Chapel of Garioch, I kept thinking that I should be feeling apprehensive about returning to running with my club after five months of solo sessions. But in truth, I felt only excitement as I made my way to the meet point. The miles I would be running tonight were in many ways secondary: I was mainly on my way to meet up with old friends.  

It wasn’t until our pre-run talk that I was reminded of the changed times, as the evening’s leader ran through the COVID questionnaire and the regulations in force before the usual business of introductions and addressing the route itself.  

Formalities concluded, the simultaneous beeping of Garmins heralded the creation of our ‘field of play’ bubble and the removal of the need to social distance. Instantly, the mood felt more relaxed, and almost like old times – minus the snot rockets.  

Chat on the run covered the inevitable topics of coronavirus, London Marathon (or non-Marathon as my runABC colleague Chris Broadbent has it), the struggles and strains of lockdown – with special mention going to homeschooling – and the obliteration of all our racing calendars. With no one having done much over the last five months, it’s fair to say ‘catching up’ didn’t take all that long. But it also became very clear to me as the miles wore on that what I missed so much over lockdown wasn’t really the running, but the company of my running friends. 

But then the bubble burst. Arriving back at the car park nine miles later, the chorus of Garmins chimed again. Like Cinderella’s coach turning back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight, we pushed back the regulation two metres and dispersed quickly to our cars – the traditional post-summer run ritual of tea and homemade cakes forbidden in the new normal. 

For a modestly sized rural club that values the social side of running as much as competition, the current homebake hiatus is certainly disappointing – but it’s a small price to pay for the chance to run together again. But until we can convince the midges to stay two metres away too, maybe it’s not such a loss after all.

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