As I write this we're well past day 40 of lockdown, and it's not easy being a mountain runner when the mountains are effectively closed and your two pre-school age children need entertaining 24-7. The great news though, is that I can still run – once a day from home. Ever since we were told to 'stay at home' my daily run has become a saving grace, bringing me headspace, perspective and sanity. Running has always been important to me, but never more so than during this pandemic. It's a taste of the freedom we have so often taken for granted.
I find the social pressure to train, enrich and educate oneself at odds with the gravity of a global pandemic. Many have lost family, income or security
To try and stay hill fit I have focused on running hilly trails, as well as using my road bike from time to time. Even here in Glencoe where the scenery is magical, I'm getting a little tired of running the same tracks and trails, staring up at alpine-looking Munros in fantastic spring weather. Some days I struggle to get motivated and feel a bit lost, partly unsure what will become of my guided running business in our post-pandemic future. To liven things up I've begun to search out lesser-known trails, visit new viewpoints and even brush up my navigation skills around the local area. I'm very lucky that I have a bouldering wall and slackline at home, so I can mix things up a bit.
After lockdown, when I look back, it won't be 'missing the mountains' that I remember most, but the extra time I've spent at home with my family. It starts at 06:45 and ends at 7pm; a constant barrage of crafting, baking, colouring, making salt-dough and painting rainbows. It's more exhausting than running, that's for sure! My husband and I try to make sure the kids get their exercise once a day too, and in a similar way to Will Legon (see below) and many other parents, we've been trying to keep it interesting for them:
We have a tiny garden but are lucky to live toddling-distance from a forest; ideal for making camps, flower-spotting and bug-hunts. I think the girls are getting more exercise per day then they usually do! I've seen no sign of all the extra 'spare time' that people keep talking about though – lockdown days in our house seem long and chaotic, but they are also very special.
I realise that I'm extremely lucky to be living in a remote area with few Coronavirus cases, and that I (so far) have not been severely impacted by this disease. Some days it feels surreal, like perhaps it's not really happening – until you switch on the news. There is still fear here though, and I've tried to make sure that it doesn't overwhelm me or affect the children. As a life-long asthmatic I was really scared about getting Coronavirus at first – I'm very familiar with shortness-of-breath but haven't been hospitalised by it for many years. As things stand today, I'm not sure if I've had the virus or not – like many I imagine. There is so much uncertainty and confusion, and we all need coping strategies for that.
If you're a hillwalker or mountain runner then you'll have seen first-hand the astronomical rise in the number of home challenges, virtual races, skills videos and self-improvement advice circulating online at the moment. This has no doubt brought many mountain-lovers a much-needed focus, given people direction and become something to strive for. However, for those who seek the mountains for their mental health, this must be a troubling time indeed. Personally, I find the social pressure to train, enrich and educate oneself to be at odds with the gravity of a global pandemic. Many have lost family, income or security. My approach has been to try to cut down on social media and avoid watching too much news. I'd say go easy on yourself if you're finding it hard. It's okay to just make it through the day!
My husband and I have been genuinely arguing over whether there are more bees in the garden or whether we are just noticing them for the first time. At Girls on Hills, many of our runners have also commented on the loud birdsong, the wild flowers and an increased awareness of the nature around us. Maybe having a once-a-day 'allowance' has made the outdoors feel more of a privilege, made us grateful? Research has shown that a relatively small dose of time spent in nature does wonders for our health and wellbeing. And it's definitely this dose that's getting me through. That and a high tolerance for Play-Doh.