Running during lockdown lets you see a whole new side to the city. One of the challenges with running in London is the busy streets – the dodging of pedestrians, stopping at crossings and the constant stop-start of the central blocks. Take away the people though, and it’s amazing – street after street, mile after mile of empty pavements, quiet parks and the city is yours to explore. Not having to constantly scan for people means you can look up, and admire the real mix of buildings London has to offer – from the mix of old and new as you traverse the outer zones, to the grand buildings of Regents Street, St James’ and the Mall.
One thing that I love about running is the way it clears your mind – once you’ve done it for a while, your fitness is decent, and you learn to control your pace and effort so you can run for a distance, then your mind clears up and the fresh air takes over. During COVID, I’ve started running a lot without headphones, to get a clear mind and get away from the numbers, the exponential curves, and the worry. With no races to train for, I only loosely pay attention to the pace, and the distances, and just try and enjoy the freedom – to be outside, to stay healthy and to have a sense of normality. It also helps to be in control when the world is uncertain – you can control your route, your pace and your effort; this sense brings a relief from the constant worry about germs, and carriers, and friends and family.
Today was quite special though, as it was probably (hopefully) the only time I’ll ever get to run through empty streets in one of the world’s great cities – even in the early hours London still keeps moving, but today it was empty. From Marble Arch to Oxford Circus, to Piccadilly Circus, to Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, I must have counted ten, maybe twenty people. London really is locked down, trying to stop the spread of the virus. Even last weekend feels like years ago, never mind two weekends before when everyone was still going on as normal, tubes were still full, and people had barely registered the threat. I guess every cloud has a silver lining – times might be surreal (it started snowing at one point) but it’s also an experience to remember. And another half marathon under my belt.