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2020 - The year racing disappeared

2020 has been a strange old year so far for everyone. Our normal day to day lives have all been affected in one way or another and things that you had come to take for granted are suddenly harder to do, or not happening at all.

Take sport. In the initial weeks of lockdown in England, the rules were to only exercise outside of your home for one hour per day. For many, this meant massively reducing their ordinary training schedule. Coupled with that, many felt that any sport that came with higher risk, such as cycling on the open roads, should be avoided, to reduce the chance of becoming an added burden on our NHS.

For those keen on keeping fit, they had to look for other ways and means of getting their exercise in. Cyclists moved their riding indoors and met up with friends on virtual workout platforms, such as Zwift. These online ‘games’ saw a massive boost in popularity. If you didn’t already own a turbo trainer; the piece of equipment your bike sits in to convert it to a stationary cycle, you might now have a problem getting one – they became rarer than a toilet roll multipack!

Organised events began to cancel left right and centre. Races in the World Marathon Majors have been written off for this year with London delaying until October initially, and then switching to an Elite only race, offering the general public the option to race virtually on the same day.

For some, virtual racing will not satisfy their hunger for competition. The pre-race butterflies in the tummy, the queuing outside of porta-loos and the wearing of binbags to keep warm on the start line are all part and parcel of a running race. Others have found the idea of a virtual race gives them purpose to train and can help to regenerate lost mojo.

At the start of this month there was much excitement amongst the running community when Parkrun announced that they were hoping to begin once more in October. Equally, there were those who were not excited and felt a return to mass participation events again at this time was not a good idea.

The Tour de France has managed to stage the 2020 event. I can only imagine how many hours the risk assessment for that took! Spectators at the sides of the roads are generally wearing masks, but it was announced a couple of days ago that Christian Prudhomme, the Race Director had tested positive for Covid, so whether the race is able to get all the way to Paris, we will have to wait and see.

So perhaps finding something new or making your own fun by creating your own challenges is the way forward right now? I asked Tom Adams who has represented Great Britain at the European and World Mountain Running Championships how the pandemic had affected him and his training.

“To start with, I thought no racing would be the end of the world. Pre-lockdown I would race on an almost weekly basis unless I had a big race to aim for, in which case I would tend to taper for it over a few weeks. As soon as race organisers started to cancel, I needed something new to aim for. I was quite lucky as we had a baby girl just close to the start of lockdown, so this was a big change for me and having time off of racing was actually a great thing as I could spend more time focusing on Amelie rather than racing.

I still managed to squeeze in a few runs after becoming a father and with no racing, I thought it was the perfect time to try something new, the new thing being longer distance runs. I had always been slightly apprehensive when it comes to runs over 25km and couldn't imagine how anybody could run further than this. I knew it must have been in my head as I had previously trained up to 80-90 miles a week and surely all it would take was to put a few of these runs together in one big run. Once I had my nutrition sorted I was out running 50km routes across Ilkley moor and other than feeling slightly jaded for a few days afterwards, I was loving it.

It was hard having no specific events to train for, but it wasn't long before I was creating my own targets to train for.

The training plan hasn't completely gone out of the window, but it has certainly changed since lockdown and having a baby. Training has to fit in around Amelie, but having a pretty chilled out wife helps a lot with my training regime. The track that I used to go to also closed quite abruptly, so specific track sessions stopped and even though I tried to replicate them on the canal, it was never quite the same, especially on your own to start with. My training swiftly went from twice a day to once a day when Boris said no more than one run a day, so my morning run would be my one session, so I'd have to make the most of it.

Even though training has changed, I haven't really altered my weekly mileage, it has been more where my training takes place. I still try to complete a Tuesday speed session, Thursday hills and a long Sunday run. They are the main ingredients to the running cake and the other recovery runs are the icing.

Motivation is one of the hardest things to overcome when it comes to exercise. I often lose my running mojo, but usually I get it back by finding a new trail to run on or meeting up with friends to run with. I find that running is one the best ways to get to know a place, so if you find it hard to motivate yourself, then try finding some new trails to run around. There are also loads of virtual runs happening at the moment, so even though it's not quite the same as racing, you can still challenge yourself to run a local 10km and compete against yourself or friends over the same course."

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