How to stay sane in a lockdown – Martin, from Bridlington Road Runners

Let’s face it, we all saw what was happening in China and thought it was probably just another SARS type thing, it wasn’t going to affect us, was it??

Then you hear about cases in Europe, in Italy, Spain and Germany and then, god forbid, races start getting cancelled or postponed…

For a very active runner the straw that nearly broke the camel’s back was the postponement of the London Marathon, the race that so often defines us and does so much for the sport and for charity. This is getting serious right?

Then when some of the smaller, local races start to be postponed or cancelled, that’s when it really hits home, the gut punch to the runner’s stomach. I was going to run the Gainsborough/Morton 10k on Sunday 22nd March, my first race back after injury (I actually wasn’t 100% recovered and wouldn’t make it anyway but that spoils the story, so we’ll conveniently gloss over that, okay?) and then that gets postponed until October…

We still think it isn’t going to affect us, even when the first cases hit the UK and the government tell us to stay away from pubs and restaurants etc. It will all be over soon, won’t it…?

Well I am sat here now, at home, on furlough from work when the country is virtually on lockdown and all organised sports are on hold pending the world returning to normal, so what do we do now…

I started running 3 years ago and to say my curve has been steep would be some kind of understatement, I now run for a running club, Bridlington Road Runners, and have recently gone under 90 minutes for a half marathon and help organise the club by being on the committee.

We have runners of every ability and age as members and it is our priority in this uncertain times to help keep them motivated, active, engaged and staying positive so, along with many others in the running community, we now extol the virtues of the virtual run (see what I did there?).

So, what’s a virtual run? It’s like organising a race that anyone can run, anywhere in the world, or for the benefit of our running club, anywhere in East Yorkshire.

We have encouraged people to do their daily runs in their club shirts, to still feel part of the running community, and to post it all over social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That way we still support each other and other members of the community, runners or not.

Firstly, Martin McPheat came up with the idea of a virtual parkrun where everyone could run a 5k every Saturday, anywhere they like and at any time up to 7pm and we would collate the results to give a league table of Bridlington Road Runners members. For those who don’t know it, parkruns are free, weekly, community events all around the world. Saturday morning events are 5k and take place in parks and open spaces. On Sunday mornings, there are 2k junior parkruns for children aged four to 14.

The obvious next step, well obvious for us anyway, was to replace actual races with their virtual equivalent. Firstly, in April and May, various members of Bridlington Road Runners were due to run a 50 mile off road race around the Yorkshire Wolds called the Woldsman and also, as a club, we were going to do a relay run along the full 79 miles of the Hessle to Filey Wolds Way.

Obviously, with the current (and eminently sensible) restrictions in place, we couldn’t run either of these events together or on the actual courses so one of our committee members, Andy Baker, took it upon himself to set up a virtual challenge whereby on the weekend of the 4th and 5th of April, everyone who wished to take part could run a 5 or 6 mile virtual section wherever they are.

We would start at sunrise (approx. 6.25am) on each day and run until sunset (approx. 7.30pm) one after the other. The first runner confirming they had finished their section before the next set off and so on. On the Sunday, everyone who hadn’t already run (remember, one exercise session per day!) could then all set off (separately, obviously!) at 7.15pm to finish the run together.

Well, with the mantra that too much is never enough, that got all our collective brains together to think of something else to keep everyone motivated through this crisis and I came up with the idea of replacing two Spring/Summer racing leagues that club members take part in with their equivalent virtual events.

The Champagne League is organised by the City of Hull Athletics club and is run on Tuesday nights from April through to July, 10 races of varying distances of 3.6 miles up to 8.4 miles and across multi-terrain surfaces. This alternates with the East Hull Harriers Summer League which consists of 8 races from 4 miles up to 8 miles, all of which are run on the road.

So that’s 18 virtual races run every Tuesday starting on the 31st March and it’s proving a fun, if convoluted, logistical feat but we’ve run the first one and it went okay. All of the results of every race will be collated and we will then have a league table at the end, just like the real thing. All our members seem very enthusiastic and they seem to be keeping the body and the mind exercised.

Now, that’s all well and good but what can other runners do, people who are not members of a running club? Well virtual running clubs have been around for a long time, take Run Things for instance, they have virtual events open to anyone and they are all free of charge. Join a race, lace your running shoes up and get out there and compete, trust me it is both exhilarating and fun!