I Wandered Lonely…

I’ve always felt guilty that I’m not a social runner – but at least going solo is perfect for escaping Covid-19

A cloud passes a couple in a park
Original Image: Anita Morgan/Pixabay

FUCK SELF-ISOLATION: that was the unspoken message in the air around London’s open spaces yesterday.

I ran through three parks as I knocked out my Sunday 10-miler, and it looked like everyone in the city was outside with me, despite the Coronavirus.

Given some half decent weather for once, Londoners were seizing the chance to stretch their legs, and for some space and fresh air.

Kids, Mums, Dads, old folks, lovers and dogs – they were all out – along with runners. Dozens and dozens of runners.

It even felt a bit Blitz-Spirit-y, being out there mingling in the face of Covid-19.

‘Bring it on!’ said the dog walker, bending to bag a turd”

Bring it on! Said the business-as-usual body language of the dog walker bending to bag a freshly minted turd. London Can Take It! said every Dad standing his ground quietly against a toddler baying for ice cream.

But in the midst of all these heroes was a coward – and that coward was me.

Because, as I dodged and weaved through the throng – woolly gloves on despite the sunshine and maintaining a safe two metres at all times – I wasn’t being brave.

I was just self isolating in plain sight….

I’ve always felt mildly guilty that I don’t run in a social way at all.

I spent decades playing team sports like football and cricket, and I still miss the structure they gave my life back then.

But it’s never been the same with running.

For a start, I didn’t run properly until I was in my late 40s, when the urge to compete against other people and other teams was all but extinguished.

I went out for a trial eight miles with a local club last summer, hoping for a sociable evening, but it still didn’t feel comfortable.

I chose a group that was just a bit too fast for my level of fitness and felt embarrassed that I just about made it round.

There’s something lovely about running by yourself in the teeth of an epidemic”

But that wasn’t the only thing that was off-putting about running in a group: there’s also the fact that I’m not used to making conversation and would much rather just listen to my own thoughts.

A run, for me, is about escaping from the world and setting my own challenges; not really about hanging out with others and following their routes, at their pace.

Also, when I run on my own, I like to go largely unseen and watch the people around me.

I thread carefully in and out of human traffic, politely hugging the kerb or stepping into the road if I’m going to get in anyone’s way.

So I was shocked at how the clubbies ran in a pavement-hogging gang, forcing pedestrians aside without a “Sorry” or “Thank You”.

I know I’ll be OK – until the Government confines us to our homes”

Yesterday, however, all my guilty feelings fell away – because there’s something lovely about running by yourself in the teeth of an epidemic.

I was out for just under 90 minutes and – apart from a couple of near-collisions with other runners – talked to no-one and touched no-one.

I was at practically zero risk of infection and, anyway, I was swamping my worries about the future with endorphins.

As I leaned against a bench to stretch afterwards, I kept my gloves on as a barrier against infection, and still felt felt part of the humanity thronging the park (albeit somewhat vicariously).

I looked up at the cafe on top of the hill, weighing up whether I should reward myself with a cappuccino, but decided against. I didn’t want to touch spoons or sachets of sugar that might have the virus on them.

I had some nice coffee at home, I thought. Better to make it there. And then I felt guilty for what I and other people making the same decision would be doing to the café owner’s business.

But at least I knew I would be OK, right up to the moment that the Government confined to our homes.

Because I don’t really need anything, as long as I still have running…

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