Sometimes it might feel like the world is running round in circles, not clear of the best path to take; Sometimes it will feel like the right thing to do is run away, whilst others might be more inclined to run headlong into the unknown; The entire sporting world has ground to a halt just when your favourite team might’ve been making a run at a title challenge; Heck there’s been times recently when it would appear your local supermarket has completely run out of stock.
In a world that is slowing down and almost pausing to contemplate its future through the prism and blurred vision of uncertainty it suddenly occurred to me this past weekend that there will always remain one constant in an ever changing universe – we will be running.
It seems as though with every waking hour, every time you turn on the news channel or go online, there is further development with the current world crisis. And it is a crisis. Although unprecedented in levels of those affected, global reach and world wide spread, when faced with similar problematic situations in the past one might, after a short period of news gathering, turn to any number of outlets to take their mind off the situation and occupy themselves. They would throw themselves into their work; Instead all talk now is of businesses going bust, the world’s economy in a steep decline, uncertainty shrouds any future career progression in complete darkness, let alone answering whether or not I should go into the office come Monday morning. If not work, then you might be the sort to turn to the sporting arena. Nothing says forget the world outside these walls quite like spending time immersed in the theatre of competitive sport; Instead all talk now is of whether or not the domestic seasons will even play out to completion. Those clear ahead in the title race unable to fully stake their claim and the chasing packs forever suspended agonisingly just out of reach. Rome, Paris, Boston and then London Marathons all put on ice before a calf muscle is even strained tying laces. The F1 season, Masters Golf, and now more than likely this summer’s European Football Championship all cancelled, moved and postponed. We find ourselves in a situation whereby we have no sporting release When Saturday Comes and, moreover, the end of this sporting sabbatical is far from in sight. Next on the hit list will be the Summer Olympics. Maybe you are not the sporty type and at times like this you prefer nothing more than a bit of retail therapy; Instead all talk is of panic buying, stores being emptied of stock, and eventually, as has been the case the world over, unless deemed necessary shops not even opening at all. Your last port of call right now might be the port itself and when times get tough who wouldn’t consider whisking themselves off to a faraway destination for a bit of well-earned R & R; Instead all talk is of flights being cancelled, travel restrictions and countries closing their borders completely. With work, sport, retail, and travel all out of the equation you would be forgiven for turning to those nearest and dearest to you, maybe even get a group of you together down the pub or round for a good ol’ cuppa and a chat; Instead all talk is of Social Distancing.
So there I was on Saturday morning, shortly after 08:15, in my car beneath a very grey and dreary sky considering the prospect of what the week ahead might bring; Work on Monday morning? No football for the next couple of weeks, at least, for either of my two eldest children, nor their beloved Wycombe Wanderers. Would my children’s school be closed in the coming weeks? Would our planned getaway at Easter still go ahead? Should it still go ahead? Will we be able to survive a weekend of semi-isolation as a family of 5? Is this a good idea to head to the supermarket now in order to beat the rush – for the record I arrived at Sainsbury’s around 08:30 and the rush had me well and truly beaten!
It is precisely 4.5 miles from my front door to the nearest Sainsbury’s. I know this because I’ve run it a few times. 4.5 miles of undulating country lanes mostly downhill, fill a rucksack with any requests from home – nappies, loo roll, cereal, milk – 4.5 miles back mostly uphill. It’s actually a hell of a work out and one of those where I really feel like I earnt those bashed up Shreddies the next morning! But the point being it is only 4.5 miles. It takes me less than 10 minutes in the car and yet on this Saturday morning when most of the world is losing its mind, when the fabric of our very existence appears to be coming apart at the seams, when no one has a bloody clue what they should be doing, I still counted more than 15 runners along this little stretch of road. With the current slew of race cancellations up and down the country I doubt they were out training for anything in particular. They were all out there for no other reason than to run. Exercise in its simplest form, entertainment in its simplest form, distraction in its simplest form; life in its simplest form. These people had I’m sure, at that very moment in time, not a care in the world they were just head down, arms pumping, full steam ahead. Just get from A to B. Just get from A to B in the quickest time. Just get from A to B the most efficient way. And that was all that mattered. It should also go without saying that these people where simultaneously strengthening their personal defences, physical and mental resilience towards anything this bonkers world tries to throw at them.
That sense of success usually only reserved and measured in the work place, is achieved every day by someone out running. That feeling of being captivated by what is playing out in front of you usually confined to a sports stadium or TV screen, is achieved every hour by someone out running. That sense of fulfilment that empty shops and shelves now leave unfulfilled, is achieved every minute by someone out running; That feeling of exploration and travelling under your own steam, on your own terms, not reliant on anyone else, is achieved every second by someone out running. And whilst running could be seen as the epitome of solo pursuits, all runners will take solace in the fact that while they might be “social distancing” in some respects, they’ll all be doing it together.
It might seem a little crass, some would even say grotesque, to suggest that it was only in this moment as I passed each runner that I realised everything is going to be ok. As the world’s economy teeters on the edge, fear of the unknown is spreading faster than the virus itself and we all wait for an answer that won’t be coming any time soon, as long as we can still get up and stretch our legs – I think we’ll be just fine.