A Wilderness Runner’s Guide to Lockdown

Lockdown has suddenly curtailed the adventures we take so much for granted, and forced a quick re-think of how we run outside.

Jenny Gillies of RunSpeyside shared what she’s learnt on her April runs – which have all begun from her front door in rural Moray in Scotland – with runABC , to help us all bring the spirit of wild running home.

If your natural running ground is our hills, moors and trails, then getting to most of these locations requires a car journey and many of your outings will be done with friends. With conversations beginning to start about a slight easing of restrictions, there is some good news, but we have to be ready to look at a more contained life for a while to come.

Use the time to explore

Ever wondered what’s down that overgrown looking path you pass on the midweek 10k route? Well now’s the time to find out. Some of the ones I’ve ventured down have just been brambles and bog, but a couple have been the missing links to create great new twists on old routes.

Stop, look, listen

Wildlife is coming to us: since lockdown wildlife has been venturing back into our living spaces. I’ve seen otters on the river at dusk and one of my trails is now home to a fox so bold I thought he was someone’s dog the first time I saw him. So take time to pause, look around and enjoy the fact that we are living in a slower world. The flipside is that although the roads are very much quieter, there are still cars around, so the Green Cross Code still definitely applies!

Stay in touch with your running buddies

They might not be the ones I see all the time on social media, but the people I run with in real life are the ones who give me the most energy and motivation. They may only be 10 miles away, but that’s a long way away at the moment – so I’m making the effort to stay in touch and find out what they’re up to. Their encouragement and support has never been so important.

Think ‘big day out’ safety

Running alone brings the need for a greater awareness of safety and preparedness. If you’re running on quieter trails then taking an extra layer, letting someone know your route and considering using a tracking app (I use ViewRanger’s Buddy Beacon and Strava Beacon is also popular) can all help you stay safe and get home should something happen. Although we are in it together, bear in mind there are still the usual personal safety considerations, so be wise and stay aware of your surroundings.

Go easy on yourself

If you planned to go out on a run, but a G&T or Netflix is going to do a better job of chilling you out instead, then it’s OK. With no races likely until late summer there’s no wagon to fall off, so I’ve let my training plan and myself relax a bit. On the other hand if you’d planned your run for 7.30am and the gin calls, that’s probably not OK!

Beware the change in running

Any change in running patterns leaves you prone to injury. The physios and coaches out there are the ones to really help with this, but certainly I know that the change from hills to mostly hard trails has left my Achilles in a somewhat delicate state.

Use social media wisely

Social media is a bit of a minefield at the moment. There are the amazing initiatives – virtual races, Zoom exercise classes and challenges to name but a few – and these keep us connected as a running community. The flipside is that if your main connection with the wider world is through social media, it can easily make you feel inadequate if your own running isn’t going well. I find it useful to take some breaks from the online world. Remember to be kind to others online and take the opportunity to make connections that may endure into the new normal.

Get creative

Why not use your phone camera to take the opportunity to look at your familiar runs with fresh eyes? Consider perspective, detail and composition to take the focus away from watching what your Garmin says. Someone I know is doing a tiny embroidery after every run showing a story from the day, and will be creating a single piece of art from them!

Jenny and her business partner David Weir offer guided trail running tours and adventures through Moray, Speyside and the Cairngorms, off-road skills sessions and trail-running events through RunSpeyside. Normal operations have been suspended due to Coronavirus, but they welcome questions, enquiries and future bookings. FB/insta: @runspeyside

Image: the view down Jenny's 'Lockdown Road'

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