Fast10’s Ellie Hartnett talks through what COVID-19 has meant to her training and how 

These times have brought with them so much uncertainty, a lack of structure and an absence of goals. For many this has created a sense of anxiety, foreboding- for athletes in particular, those used to having structured training plans, rep times and race ‘deadlines’ these really are testing times.

Covid 19 has thrown everything into upheaval but for now, I think just control the controllable factors and enjoy the process.

It feels lucky, in a sense, that I really enjoy variety and change and so these uncertain times have forced me to do just that. I have moved back home and although one would think I would have exhausted all possible running routes in my hometown, it appears I have not. 

Get creative

It’s been fun getting creative and taking the road less travelled. Because of the travel restrictions, roads have been markedly quieter and so road routes, which previously would have been out of bounds, are suddenly accessible. Greystones is lucky to be blessed with a variety of routes- by the sea, up hills and grass golf courses (another bonus of lockdown).

Sometimes the run is my only outing during the day and although it can be tough to set off alone, I always feel better for it.

The world and its mother appear to have taken up running during lockdown.  This 5k run challenge has taken off. This is a brilliant initiative and, in a way, has given me a greater appreciation of what running has been giving me all along.

The joys of running

People are now realising just how good it feels, to put on your runners, head out the door and just run. A problem you have been trying to figure out is solved, a fight with a loved one does not seem quite so bad anymore and you never regret having set out the door. Running in its simplest form is just that- putting one foot in front of the other.

We tend to overcomplicate it, but these times have forced us to remember its simplicity.

As athletes we are often working toward a deadline- a race, a time trial or even a training session. There is now a lack of deadline, but that does not mean the work has stopped. The structure of the week still brings joy.

The week is still punctuated with the normal ‘session’ days on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The only difference being these are no longer the group gatherings we would normally enjoy- hills out in the curragh are a thing of the past, trips to UCD grass pitches are null and void.

On the flip side one bonus I suppose is that we do not have to travel, and this saves time overall in your day, leaving more time for rest and recovery. 

Time is in our own hands

We can work on our own schedules, but I find this can be a blessing and a curse. We all have days were motivation is low, and the lack of accountability to turn up to a group training session means we can put it on the long finger.

I am very lucky that one of my training partners Richael lives in Greystones also, and we have been doing socially distant training sessions across the road from one another. This gives us that sense of urgency- we pick a time, a meeting point and a different  warm up route so that we will not cross paths. This has worked well, and you look forward to these sessions rather than dreading them.

Hills and kilometres, together but apart, with conversations shouted loudly across the road. Seeing the other struggling along with you helps to reduce the pain.

The loneliness of the long distance runner

Long runs are done alone and the return to the ‘Base’ phase of training again means these runs are getting even longer. Although these runs can be lonely, they are also a time out by yourself to process these strange times.

I have started listening to podcasts on these runs and we have a group debrief post run with a group of us runners online over zoom. This gives us a sense of community and often acts as a welcome distraction on the run too.

People always say, ‘enjoy the process’ and never has a statement seemed more apt.

For now, it is all about the process, we cannot but live in the moment. We do not know when these restrictions will be lifted, we do not know when normal group training and competition will resume. I think I now know what people meant, and I am currently focused on getting fit, strong, recovering well and enjoying the process.

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