About the author: Erin found his love for running 12 years ago, and has been a student of the sport ever since. Running both road and trail, he has been fascinated with the training methods and approaches of all the great coaches. He founded Flat Rock Endurance upon completion of his National Diploma in Coaching Sciences in 2017, and has been working with athletes of all levels, from complete beginners to elites covering distances from 5 km to 100 miles.
When the lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19 was announced, the hearts of the entire South African running community dropped. As the severity of the situation became clear, one by one our most loved running races were cancelled or postponed indefinitely.
Maybe Two Oceans Marathon was going to be your first half marathon, or you were going for your permanent number at Comrades Marathon. Maybe you had spent the last four months preparing physically and mentally to tackle the UTD 100 miler.
And just like that, gone. All the early morning starts, hard hill sessions, back to back long runs seem to have been for naught. With that our motivation and discipline started to fade.
We responded to this in very contrasting ways. Some ran ultras in their living rooms and some stopped training all together. Both perfectly understandable responses. Some clinging on to running what they could and others unable to bring themselves to do a thing.
I feel our extreme responses to this may lie in why we start running in the first place. For so many of us running is our way of both dealing with, and escaping day to day life. That daily run becomes the journal where you make sense of your thoughts. The weekly group run becomes your therapy that keeps you sane and that weekend long run becomes the antidepressant, levelling off the highs and lows of your emotions.
What we really lost with the lockdown was not only the freedom to move but the freedom to use our coping mechanisms. This perhaps happened at a time where we probably needed it most, with all the anxiety inducing uncertainty that this pandemic has provided.
Runners have a secret weapon to help them through this turbulent time.
A weapon that has become more proficient with every run they have done.
That weapon is our ability to endure.
Not only are we good at it but we thrive on it. We enter challenging events, with gruelling elevation profiles, technical trails, extreme distances, wild weather and at hostile altitudes. We start them knowing that we’re going to suffer, and we know (and hope) that we are going to have to dig deep to succeed. In doing so proving to ourselves that we are strong and capable.
Capable to endure.
The first (and hopefully last) edition of the ‘Pandemic Lockdown Multi-Day Stage Race’ is not over. We still have many challenges to overcome, many more opportunities to grit our teeth and dig deep. But this is what we do.