Running with a purpose – long run anyone?

by Caroline Privett

Training for a big race is great when you have a training plan to follow – someone else has planned it out for you, you just change it slightly to fit in with you. Yes you have to choose your routes but the distance is all laid out ready for you. I ran my first (and so far only) marathon in 2019 and loved following the training plan… that is until injury struck 4 weeks before the race and some urgent physio and tweaks to the plan were made. Luckily as I’d done most of the hard work I still managed to finish and in my target time just – as in 10 seconds under!!

Roll onto 2020 and all races are cancelled – no training plans needed, who knew when we might race again (who still does for sure?). I wasn’t signed up for any races before lockdown and one by one they were all postponed once if not twice!

Initially working in the hospital and with 2 small children at home, running became tricky to fit in around our new crazy family schedule of home schooling / childcare / work juggling. I just about hung onto my long run on a Sunday but with the restrictions over how long we should be out and how far we could go, I often stuck to a familiar route which I knew allowed room for social distancing. As the weeks rolled on my work schedule changed slightly which suddenly allowed me more time to run (yay – essential for my mental health) even if it did mean pre 7am runs. Gradually as the anxiety lessened or rather I became more accepting of it, I slowly started to try different routes on a Sunday again.

I rarely run with music at the moment – my small ears don’t get on with ear buds and I just enjoy the listening to the birdsong / other sounds around me while getting lost in my thoughts – although annoyingly some kids songs pop into my head –tunes from Peppa Pig anyone, grrr? So how do I manage on long solo runs? 

I started to enjoy the SRC monthly challenges and treasure hunts – giving me a reason to try new routes – such as trying to spell my name with street names (vowels are quite tricky- not ideal when you have 4 in your name!) or special post boxes but it was the Run the ‘Diff SRC challenge in August 2020 that really got me into planning different long runs to reach each target from home. Why else would you get greeted by a friendly face while you take a sober selfie of yourself on the Magic Roundabout early on a Sunday night?

Basically from then on I like to see where I fancy running to plan my long routes – maybe related to another challenge, maybe inspired by other ladies routes in the group, maybe seeing an article in a magazine or online about lockdown photos on bus stops / literary trails, looking for Armistice Poppies or even finding filming locations from TV shows. I Run Wales set challenges too. 

When we couldn’t travel I ran to somewhere the kids missed just so I could take a photo for them, be it Cardiff Castle or the start line of Junior Parkrun! I found a Roald Dahl trail round North Cardiff and ran that. A few weeks later I completed it by heading down to the Bay. Sometime I’ll head back to places I miss too or haven’t been to for a while especially Castles or maybe to return somewhere in better weather to check out the views.

Strava stalking is great for working out new routes too (how did they get there then?…) and I got given an OS map centred on our house as a Mother’s day present to help choose routes – although that ended up with me being stranded in a field of sheep so my navigation skills still need a bit of practise!! I did find Ruperra Castle eventually though. 

Most recently I ran the journey of a Stroke patient in Cardiff as part of a month long challenge at work. Collectively we were aiming to cover 7400 miles on foot/bike in May to raise awareness and money for the Stroke Association. The number representing the number of people in Wales who have a Stroke each year. My run took me to the Heath Hospital, then onto the Rehabilitation Centre in LLandough Hospital and then back home – 16 miles, my longest run since those marathon miles 2 years ago. Without much preparation and no rest day for 2 weeks it was the meaning of the run that carried me through.

So where next for a long run… I just wait and see what takes my fancy, where my heart pulls me next. I won’t be planning any long adventures like Anna McNuff anytime soon (her book Pants of Perspective was in the book club last year) but running somewhere you want to helps those miles pass by and without music to distract me I can take it all in. You may have a buddy/ies to share in your adventures or may tend to run solo like me. Either way why not give it a try?

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