Running in lockdown: Learnings

I start this short blog as my longest ever run streak of 45 days comes to an end, on day 66 of my personal lockdown (I was in isolation due to suspected Coronavirus 10 days before the national lockdown came into effect). I’m going to talk a little bit about how my training has changed during this epidemic and the impact that’s had.

First, some stats. In those 45 days I have:

  • Run 303 miles
  • Achieved unofficial PBs for 1 mile, 2 miles, 5k, 10k and half marathon distance
  • Had a longest day of 18.1 miles, on day 43 of the streak
  • Had a shortest day of 2.5 miles speedwork

Looking at the week of April 20-26, I did 51.1 miles comprising daily mileage of 4.6, 7.3, 6.3, 8, 5.3, 4 and 15.4 miles. Taking a week in February (when I was preparing for the cancelled Ultra Tour of Arran), I did 50.9 miles comprising daily mileage of 3.2, rest, 3.1, 4, rest, 26.4 and 14 miles. What is interesting is that the following week in April / May I did 38.3 miles; in February I did just 9.6 as my body recovered from the back-to-back training efforts of a marathon followed by a half marathon. The consistency and quality of my training has improved massively during lockdown, and as a result, I feel a lot stronger and fitter. My “easy” pace is about 25-30 seconds a mile quicker than it used to be.

No events, no targets

There’s a lot to be said for not having the mental pressure of a big event looming on the horizon – without targets, I’ve had the luxury of doing whatever I feel like on any given day. I’ve given myself a rough plan for a week in my head, but haven’t beaten myself up if I’ve not even come close to it, which goes for mileage both over and under plan. And I’ve just enjoyed running for the sake of running – sometimes when we’re training for events we forget the simple joy of something that comes naturally to us.

So what? It’s certainly going to change my mindset when training for Ultras in the future. When I was training for The Wall back in 2018, I became almost obsessed with slowing down my pace to ensure I didn’t go too quickly on the day. I was going out for 7 mile runs at planned race pace, as well as long runs of up to 40 miles. Whilst the absence of any official Ultra events any time soon makes it hard to test, I have a new theory that my focus on the psychological aspect of running slowly meant I wasn’t getting the physiological benefits that hard running gives you. The interval training sessions, the quick 5ks, the 10 miles at tempo pace – all are critical weapons in the armoury of any distance runner and I perhaps neglected them a bit.

Never stop learning as a runner

As I’ve said before, you never stop learning as a runner and I hope that these few months will give me a much better training balance in the future. It’s only a small sample size, but as I finish this blog on day 76 of lockdown, I’ve just completed a 5k in under 20 minutes for the first time ever. 19:43 (according to Strava), 30 seconds quicker than my 20:13 managed three days previously, which was in turn 11 seconds quicker than that managed during the streak. And I also did three 10ks in a day two days ago. I’ll be back next year to see if my new regime holds out when life is (hopefully) back to normal and the events start racking up again. Stay safe and stay active!