How running changed in 2020 by Mildred Thehen

It's easy to become complacent of the great running routes and trails we have on our doorstep. I used to drive an hour to the Clywdian Hills to go running in the beautiful Welsh countryside. 

Then Covid-19 struck, and we were locked down, not allowed into Wales or even out of our homes more than once a day. 

Suddenly, being able to run at all was a daily luxury to look forward to, enjoying the fresh air and freedom from my doorstep. 

Now that we're allowed to travel again, I've not felt the need to drive anywhere else to run, having become attached to the local routes I've enjoyed so much.

But here are the top ten ways lockdown and social distancing have changed my running

No more coughing in public

When a particularly sticky fly has flown into my throat, hysterical coughing and spitting are definitely right out of order now. 

A desperate bit of gurning and trying to swallow the thing (preferably washed down with electrolyte solution) is the only option. 

It's protein after all. And possibly a bit of horse muck, or whatever else it's been feasting on.

The obligation to run all the way up hills

This happens when meeting a couple of walkers on their way down a hill, which I'm staggering up.

Although I want the excuse of being the one to stop so I can get a breather, they believe that as a ‘runner’ I must have priority. 

They kindly scramble up a steep bank to give two-metres clearance, and shout "After you!" This means I am now obliged to run all the way up in order to justify their expectations of my running prowess.

Stiles and gates

Holding open kissing gates cannot be done with two-metres clearance, and neither can kissing over them, if that is your thing. 

Therefore normal rules are reversed and the correct thing to do now is to let them slam closed for the next person while apologetically muttering something about Covid and Matt Hancock, and reaching for the hand sanitiser.

Running clothes addiction

With no requirement for nice clothes for the office or nights out any more, I'm now browsing the pages of sportswear websites for something I'll actually be wearing regularly: Lycra.

Trying to avoid sounding overly proud of the fact that I'm dressed in actual clothes when it is suggested that we switch cameras on during Teams calls, it's nice to have a new sweat-wicking top on for those worrying moments that start "Would you like to talk us through it?"

Virtual races and challenges

The running club put weekly challenges on Facebook, and all of a sudden, from a quagmire of apathy emerges a new attitude: running up as many hills as possible for the Elevation Challenge, a 10k Time Trial, or running as far as possible in 30 minutes during a heatwave, all seem like eminently good ideas.

Running is my only social life

My first socially distanced run for months is with someone whom I don't know well, and I feel so excited to see a face other than one of my direct family or the lady in the Co-op (no offence) that I blurt with frightening enthusiasm: "I'M SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU!!" 

Anyone else might have bolted for the nearest exit, but I'm fortunate instead to acquire a new, and very tolerant, running partner of similar pace and sense of humour. 

Carried away by my social success, on impulse I tag along with a stranger in the forest one evening, in the mistaken belief that "she looks about my pace". 

However, as we chat while hurtling along at a desperately uncomfortable speed, I fear that I'm going to pass out, and decide that solo running still has its merits after all.

The Great Garmin Outage

There was the trauma of waiting for Garmin to sort things out and allow us back into the App, as the days pass by, and the battery ratings on the watch whittle down to nil, knowing that those runs I did in that week will be lost forever if I can't sync soon. 

After all, if it's not showing on Garmin Connect, it's all been a figment of my imagination.


We loved and appreciated nature and our beautiful countryside during lockdown. We watched satellites pass by in clear skies, we listened to the birds, we helped toads cross the road and when we were let out we rejoiced in visiting beauty spots. 

Why were these places festooned with so much litter by those who had travelled to appreciate them? Plogging (picking up litter while jogging) has resumed.

"He's only being friendly"

The profusion of dogs during lockdown was a thing of wonder; where did they all come from? Where had they been beforehand?

 Accordingly, their poopsies - whether lurking on the footpaths or adorning the trees in little bags - also flourished, much to the outrage of local Facebook groups. 

Thus avoidance of dogs off the lead and out of control in the local forest became difficult.

"He's only being friendly" was the prevailing refrain from the owner who had abandoned attempts to recall their animals that were busily trying to extract blood from my legs or decorate my face with scratch marks.

It may be that my childhood socialising was inadequate, but I just don't recall that "being friendly" was ever defined like this. As I ponder whether to try out this friendliness with the people I am facing, I am persuaded against it by a) their abuse for me looking a bit hacked off, and b) the two-metre rule.

Race cancellations

After years of ballot rejection, I finally had a charity place in the London Marathon this year.

As this, and other races I had entered were cancelled, a wave of inertia flowed over me.

I couldn't be bothered to run any more, I had followed a rigorous training plan, but now there was no point. Then I fell ill with a dry cough, chest pains and awful fatigue…

In retrospect, agonising about VLM now felt ridiculous, and fear set in of any permanent damage that might prevent me resuming running... ever. 

I rested and was lucky to get better quite quickly. I resumed running with renewed enthusiasm, no longer bound by training schedules or pressure to get personal bests, but just for the joy of being able to do it. And would you believe it, the personal bests started coming in.

#BeKind has had a great effect on social media and elsewhere. 

For many who are ill, lonely or suffering from lost mojo or worse, there is a lot of understanding and encouragement to be found in virtual running groups.

If anything good has come out of this, it has hopefully been more kindness and support of each other.

Kind regards

"Mildred Thehen"

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