Coach and some time jogger Tom Craggs explains how the Coronavirus crisis has changed the mental side of running for him

I used to run a lot, mostly to get in shape to race. Now I really just run for health and enjoyment but I still try to get out most days if I can around work and family.

We all think about different things when we run, for me I always seemed to respond quite well to centring. I could be quite happy running for a couple of hours with my main focus being on how my breathing felt, how quickly my legs were turning over (or how slowly usually), how relaxed my face and shoulders were.

In short my thoughts were often quite internally focused. I’ve really noticed over the last week how my thoughts have changed. How at the moment I am much more I am looking to the external.

Keeping my distance

I find myself being hyper conscious of other people on the same path or area of a park. I’ll see a walker 100m away and I’ll already be thinking of how I can give them enough space to feel comfortable, probably unnecessarily so given how long it currently takes me to cover that 100m.

It’s made me far more aware of where I run. Sadly not all of us can disappear off into the wild to run so I’m plotting out less attractive routes which will likely take me along quieter paths. Industrial estate anyone?

Avoid judgement

I find myself having to work hard to not judge others around me if they are walking or running down the middle of a path, or even being on a path if there is a big area of open grass to run on right next door.

I like to think I am pretty self aware when I am out and about but who knows? It makes me wonder how many times in the past I have done the same without realising, or squeezed through a gap between walkers or other runners so as I can maintain my pace or rhythm on my incredibly important block of tempo.

So it’s really not a time for judgement. After all we are all having to adapt quickly to new and unfamiliar social norms and not all of us can do that overnight. Better to be friendly, supportive and demonstrate through doing the right thing yourself.

Leave no trace

Whilst I am pretty sure I have not tended to eject bodily fluids from my nose or mouth too often when I run has my natural state of running reverie meant I have in the past and just not noticed?

Without going into the details of peak flows etc it’s safe to say that a cough is far more likely to spread whatever germs you have a fair bit further than you breathing hard during an interval session. That said I have started, rightly or wrongly, to be more aware of breathing hard in close proximity to others. Even if I know this is not going to cause harm if I am 2+ metres away, they might not.

Having heard about farmers doing around to disinfect gates and stiles after a day of runners climbing over them I am now looking at the limited number of these on the routes I run and trying to work out how to open them using legs, elbows or my torso.

Yeah I am probably over thinking it, but my point is that almost overnight I have gone from running being an internal, more intrinsic process to one where I seem to be much more heightened to what and who is around me. It’s not good or bad, but running feels different as a result.

Appreciating value

I am conscious of not taking the piss when I run. Now to be fair its been quite a few years since I did the kind of volumes of running where this would even need to be a consideration but even now I am wondering if a 30-40 minute run might be more appropriate than a 50-60 minute run (it’s probably not by the way!).

This isn’t all bad though. In the rest of life we are needing to be more aware of everything we use, being less profligate, less wasteful.

As a result, and as cliched as it is, I do genuinely feel I am appreciating running more. Whereas in the past a 30 minute run might have felt a bit throw away, now the running I can do, limited as it is by injury and COVID restrictions, feels a bit more precious.

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