Walks of the mind

Walking, to me, and being in the outdoors have always been beneficial. So important in fact, that they are an essential part of my personality, my well-being and seemingly, my subconscious.

Back in 1996 when I took my first steps as a ‘jogger’, I didn’t know that it was the first rung on a ladder that has been going for 25 years and shows no sign of letting up. My outdoor pursuits have grown in those years to more than running. I’m now a walker, trail runner, naturalist (not a naturist, that is something I haven’t dabbled with – yet), cyclist, wild camper, environmentalist – the list goes on. I imagine that anyone reading this will probably be very similar, after all, you probably found this along your own journey and decided to read it. The name of the blog does not suggest that I am reviewing mobile phones, or last night’s TV. You will also possibly, I imagine, be struggling with what to do with yourself now that (in the UK) we are in lockdown 3.0.

There have been times in my life when my back has been against the wall. When I’ve been in strange places and situations, and in my own analogy, feeling like a shaken up lemonade bottle (I always liken stress and bad stuff to fizzy drink in a bottle, and actions to reduce that fizz are the motions needed to slowly open the cap to let some of it out occasionally). Running has always been my way of opening the cap slowly. Not always letting it all out, but alleviating the pressure somewhat. Slowly over the years, walking has done that too. The slower pace, the opportunity for mindfulness, the feeling of being out with your thoughts, and being unhurried I think gives you a chance to take more mental photographs and make little films in your memory that you can watch back when you need them. It’s times like we find ourselves in now that it all comes together and becomes clear why we are the way we are. We can draw on those memories to calm our anxious thoughts down, we can use them to plan future journeys in brighter times ahead, and we can just solely relive them. They can draw us out of dark places, they are food to nourish our well-being. These adventures and experiences, no matter how small are investments in a bank that we can withdraw or count on days when we can’t go out and earn more.

One thing I found interesting about lockdown, especially 1.0 was how it seemed to me that as soon as the outdoors was taken away, people wanted it more. People who probably never considered themselves outdoor people. But once the option of going for a walk in, say, Snowdonia, was taken away, the desire burned more. I am not a psychologist, so I can’t say if that’s because of the need to defy authority or whether it’s that old adage of you-don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-until-it’s-gone kind of thing. All I know is that I am fully at peace knowing that I’ve planned almost every available weekend around an adventure, a walk, a long run, and not taken anything for granted, so I can stay local and relive my mountain films in my head and plan the next ones with even more appreciation.

There has never been a better time

I will start this post by wishing you, your family and your friends and pets a very Happy New Year. However last year treated you, I hope you get what you need from 2021, and I am sending you positive, warm wishes.

I haven’t written a blog for what seems like a long time (“Thank %*@#” goes the cry). It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say – I generally always have something to say, it’s usually a choice between whether it needs to be said or if I’ll say it in the right way. Now obviously the elephant in the room in this difficult second paragraph is the C-word. Not the religious festival we just saw fly by in the blink of an eye, or the word mostly used on my birthday cards, no, of course I am referring to the C-word of the global pandemic. I’m not going to write about what I think of the politicians, or any conspiracy theories, or rant about how bad it really has affected me, as I’m sure it has affected everyone in different ways. I will address though that despite a few bumps along the way that weren’t directly related to COVID-19 and lockdown, more bi-products, I have actually enjoyed it. I’ve said before that I am a largely solitary person, and the lockdown didn’t massively change my life, and I’ve tried to work towards self-improvement throughout and seek out the positives. On New Year’s Eve, I wrote a long list of all the great things that came out of lockdown, so I have a lot to be thankful for. In fact, my introspection and getting-on-with-it mentality is the main reason my blog posts have dropped off and my social media presence has been zilch since the summer – I have just been happy doing my own thing. I look at the news every day, but I don’t get down about it as to me, it is what it is and in my trying-to-be-a-Buddhist eyes, anger and worry will do nothing. So being quite black-and-white over the matter, and just making sure I stay on the right side of the law have been just that – no fighting against things that I cannot change.

On my list of New Year’s intentions, I overwhelmingly decided to look at picking up the pieces around me of things that I used to do that had fallen by the wayside, so began writing a new blog at the weekend. Here in the UK on Monday evening, we went into another national lockdown. This altered my post considerably. I had been writing with the subject of returning to ‘normal’ (whatever that may be) and my perhaps cynical views on that. Overnight I had an enforced change of heart – I can’t write about returning to normal when people are now being told not to go out. Even I am not that insensitive (he hopes). With that thought and a combination of things that happened the following day and the rest of my New Year’s intentions, and a blissfully sunny day, my subject matter changed, and I’m glad it did.

I have many goals, intentions, ambitions, whatever you want to call them, for this year. Some of them thrill me, some of them terrify me but they do one thing – they give me a sense of purpose, hope and positivity. It got me thinking – there has never been a better time. I think it is the same for all of us. We can all think about what we would like to do with our lives, where we would like to be, even whom we would like to be. This strange situation is going to play out in its own way. It doesn’t care about you or I, and we have two great tools at our disposal: effort and attitude. I’m not saying that if you feel lonely and depressed, that it is your fault. What I’m saying is setting targets no matter what they are or how big or small they are, they can make a huge difference. There has never been a better time to look inside yourself. Never been a better time to learn something about yourself, history, the world, even someone you’ve never met. The journey could be incredible. Don’t come out of this historic pandemic and live to 100 years old just to tell your grandchildren that all you did was binge-watch stuff on some sort of streaming service (avoiding free advertising space there), and made silly videos of yourself miming to ‘Holiday’ by Madonna on another well known (and morally questionable) social media platform. You are destined for greater things!

In the first lockdown, I busied myself with lots of small projects, more for my own sanity and a break from work really. That lost its momentum during the summer and I lost my purpose somewhat. I spent most of my time outdoors, reflecting, thinking, fighting wave after wave of changes that hit me from all angles. My original hope was that I would continue to post, and continue to support and inspire others, whereas all I did was end up trying to support myself and disappearing off the radar. I half expected to read my own obituary somewhere (transient thought; as an exercise, if you’re up for it, write your own obituary. Write how you would like to be remembered and thought of at the end of your life. A bit morbid perhaps, but I had to do it for something two years ago and it can be very humbling.)

As covered earlier, but humbly reiterated, Happy New Year to you, and I genuinely send you my best wishes. You won’t be reading my obituary any time soon, I am still here and I intend to be a bit more useful.

Hau’oli makahiki hou (try saying that without smiling).

Rediscovering home

For me, as for pretty much everyone, this summer has not been normal. The strangest things I found were things like the complete inability to just jump in the car, and go and visit somewhere. Having that spark of imagination, or memory and saying, “Let’s go there”, as, in my area anyway, most places had booking systems. Furthermore, when it was possible to go somewhere, I was finding them more packed to the rafters with other tourists than normal, so things were pretty strange. I did get a good mountain walking day in over south Wales on midweek day, but it had to be an early start, which I have never minded.

On the trail…

On my previous post, I mentioned losing momentum over the summer, and lacked motivation. My way of dealing with this was to take a week off running. After returning to it, a couple of weeks later, I realised I’d been running on 6 consecutive days. Competitive drive activated. I thought, “Why not go 50 days running every single day?”, so that’s what I did. One of these runs was a few miles along the Worcestershire Way long distance footpath, which runs for 30 miles north to south, or vice versa of course. I have completed an organised ultra marathon along most of the path on two occasions. The light bulb of adventure pinged on and I decided to attempt to run the whole thing. A couple of weeks later, I decided to run it in both directions, in one go. 60 odd miles (or 100km, as that sounds more impressive).

I have lived in Worcestershire for my entire life, except for four agonising months when I lived in Warwickshire. The shame. In all those years, it’s amazing how little of the county I have seen and how little I know, although I probably know more than some. During the training for my solo ultra marathon, I covered miles and miles that I’ve never seen, passed through towns, villages, orchards, woodland and valleys completely new to my eyes and feet. One hidden gem was a valley that was home to a self-sufficient community, living in shepherd huts and cabins. Almost like a hidden oasis. There were steep climbs that were tackled practically on my hands and knees. While it made me wonder at my home county, it made me curious about firstly the other hundreds of places like it also in my county still to visit, as well as neighbouring counties and the rest of the country while I was as it. It’s things like that that make you realise how short our time is, and how busy we are. How many Saturdays to see all of Worcestershire? Don’t even get me started on all the books I need to read (or should read), films I need to see or albums I need to listen to. Next time someone says, “Life is short” – agree with them, cos it bloody is!

I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the run, but in a nutshell, I ran out of gas/daylight at 41 miles. Not the hallowed 60 that I had dreamt of. There was a pub at 41 miles that was too good to resist. It happened to be right at the bottom of a steep bloody hill too, so perfectly placed. I’m very pleased I did it, and it was just what I needed for motivation.

As I write, I am planning the next one, in a week’s time. Another local long distance footpath, more to discover. This desire to complete things in their entirety has been with me for years. When I was younger, I cycled a little bit of the A38 road through my home town, and wondered what it would be like to cycle the whole thing. I got home and did the research for an hour or so (pre-internet days), until I was talked out of it by my parents, with their many what if questions and parental concerns. Seven years later, they watched as I cycled the length of the UK. I’d regularly run a section of my local canal, and in 2011, I ran the whole 32 miles of it. That mentality still exists. I don’t know if I’d call it adventure, stubbornness, stupidity or what, but you can bet your life, if there’s a trail, famed road or river, someone, somewhere will have at least thought about traveling it in its entirety in one fashion or another. That quizzical curiosity of what lies past the end of your street. What is beyond that hill? Then what? Then what again. And again. In old days, people didn’t have the need to do it unless it was for trade, and besides, they were probably terrified of falling off the edge of the world. Toppling off the edge of the world is fine with me.

Continue reading “Rediscovering home”

Active resting

Active resting. A contradiction in terms. How can you actively rest? Or indeed, rest in an active fashion? This is a term I have only seen splashed around lately. It seems it actually means something different to what I thought/hoped it meant.

From my running exploits over the years, I have learned many things, and terms for different training activities. It happened gradually, from just going out for a ‘run’ and seeing how it went, to having a structured training plan. I used to believe that in order to run better, I needed to run more, and as fast and as hard as possible every time I went out. After a few years and a fair bit of experience, I realised this was not the case, and I needed to have regular rest days and days that are easy runs, at a much slower pace. From my internet research, I can assume these easy days are what are now being called active resting. The act of running, but very slowly compared to your normal pace, allowing your presumably tired muscles to recover. Makes sense.

Here’s what I thought it might mean. Stay with me. I related to it because the phrase resonated with me as something I consider myself to do. I thought it might mean going outdoors for a possibly strenuous walk in the mountains, or anywhere, that whilst being taxing physically is actually resting your mind and, in the long run, providing relaxation. I may be completely wrong, but I like mine better. I do prefer to get up early on days off and distance myself from stresses and strains of every day life – resting. Not being one to lounge around in bed, this is how I choose to be alive.

In relation to the aforementioned resting, I have just (as of yesterday), reached the end of a 50 day running streak, that is, 50 days of consecutive running. It wasn’t structured, and most of my runs were active rests really, but I enjoyed it and effectively out-ran some niggling injuries that had been getting me down since June, as well as shifting a few extra pounds I had gained from being housebound and greedy. The feeling of being overweight, though only by a few pounds, coupled with pain when running and a distinct lack of motivation pushed me to taking a week off and seriously consider whether running was still something I wanted to continue doing. So I picked it up again, created a couple of challenges for myself and allowed them to keep me focused, driven and motivated. Thinking lockdown and working from home would only last a month at most back in March, I made the most of every day, running, workouts in the garden, push up challenges, just being in the garden; but as time went on and various issues niggled at me, I lost my drive, purpose and motivation. Luckily I seem to have recovered some, if not all of it. In the midst of it, I wildcamped and also managed a pretty rewarding day in my favourite part of South Wales.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll bore you stupid with one of my stories from one of my adventures next time, as I haven’t done it yet. Stand by.

Sunrise, and reconnecting

The last time I got up at 3.30am, other than to go to the toilet, was to run an ultra marathon. It’s not the sort of time that people get up to do normal things. In my experience however, normal is a little bit boring. Ok, a big bit boring. My alarm went off at the said time and I rolled out of my pit. Everything was ready, all set out the night before. All I had to do was make a flask of tea and have something to eat. Thirty minutes later, I’m in the car driving to my destination, some four miles away, the new day beginning to glow on the horizon in my rear view mirror. The purpose of my trip was to see something that happens every day, yet we take it for granted despite its beauty and significance – the sunrise.

I have these periods in my life that I go through where I am very conscious of time passing by – through my fingers, like sand. How many times will I be able to see the sunrise in my life? How much more time that is not guaranteed to me, or you, in any way will be taken for granted and flushed down the toilet of life?

I parked up and began my walk. I had no route planned, so I just followed my feet until I found a comfortable spot to sit and watch the show. More often than not when I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets, there has been a bit of disappointment as cloud or haze gets in the way. This time was unprecedented though. Just after 5 am there was a burning orange dot that grew and grew then flashed across the sky. Here it was. The new day. I felt the light on my face and the warmth flooding in. The tea I brewed was perfect, the scene was spectacular and the company was pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Little did I know though that the sunrise was only the starter. The wildlife I saw that morning was the main course and dessert. There were countless deer, in close proximity, hares, kites, skylarks and a lone fox, blissfully unaware of my gaze as he zig-zagged through the crops, hopefully following the scent of an unsuspecting creature.

It wasn’t until 9 am that I saw human beings. Getting home at 11 am, after an already 8 hour day is definitely not practical to repeat very often, but is humbling enough to do again. I am definitely seeing these solo forays into the outdoors these days as reconnection exercises, as I am calling them. It’s all too easy to lose the sense of who you are, where you sit and how you fit in to the world. If getting up at 3 am to watch such an amazing event for free while the rest of town sleeps is all it takes to do that, then I’m happy.

The bit between two normals

I gave out some (no doubt unheeded, dubious) advice to a teenager at the weekend about living in the moment – about not dwelling on the past and not assuming tomorrow is going to happen. Whilst a teenager’s life is vastly different to mine, I feel the advice was relevant and a little nugget of life insight, which undoubtedly was not what they wanted to hear, yet will read all about on Flikflok, or whatever the tripe is called, and then feed it back to me as if it’s a complete revelation that they, nor I have ever heard before.

Living in the moment, so I’ve been reading, is a massive factor in maintaining one’s mental health. It’s something I admittedly don’t do enough of, though probably more than most. Definitely more than the average teenager. I find when I’m outdoors I tend to be more present, stopping to admire a spider’s web, listening out for birdsong, and watching Housemartins sweep and swoop. I’ve probably said it before but lockdown has not brought me down at all, directly. I say directly as factors associated with it have succeeded somewhat, but the whole working from home jazz, and social distancing has, if anything, improved my well being. I’ve always strongly disliked the office environment as regular readers will confirm, so dealing with colleagues on a screen twice a day is bliss. It does pose some serious questions to ask myself though, like why do I need to spend four hours a day commuting in order to fulfill exactly the same job role and feel much better about it too? The time I used to spend commuting is now taken up walking or running in the morning, or out in the garden, watching it grow and feeding the birds. Zero negativity. Zero carbon emissions.

It’s just as well I am enjoying this slower pace of life, having more time to relax and do what I enjoy, reading and attempting to meditate, as I am not sure what I am less enthusiastic about: the old normal or the new normal. I don’t want to sound like I am taking the urine, as I know plenty of people are struggling for many different reasons, and I know I am very lucky compared to some. I just feel that the current situation is not so far from my normal, insular, way of life anyway, and it’s actually allowed me to flourish a little. It was interesting when this all started, weeks ago and comparisons were made to World War Two, as politicians tried to convince them and us that we could all club together and pull through like previous generations did, evoking the war effort. I didn’t see any of that at all. Politicians still had their eyes on money and bending the rules, and the majority of the population went out and selfishly looted bog roll and other essentials that they didn’t actually need. It would have been interesting to see the population cope for just a week under strict rationing. Try six years of it. I can now understand why a large proportion of society were actually caught up in the bittersweet celebrations of VE Day in 1945, as it effectively signalled the end of near socialist, co-operative living, and in the case of the women who kept Britain eating, fighting and moving, potentially the end of their independence and freedom. The men were coming back, and normal roles would be resumed. Obviously, we know it wasn’t the case for long and social reform happened. What will the COVID-19 equivalent be? Let’s wait and see. Probably the doubling of McDonald’s drive through lanes, though I sincerely hope not.

So, as I try to learn more about nature the more I realise how much I, and we, need it. It is flourishing without us. We would not flourish without it. I hope to emerge from this experience with countless more positives than negatives.

The selflessness of #1

The door clicked shut behind me and I turned the key to lock it. The weight of the day gradually slipping away as I wind my way through the streets and alleyways of town, effectively the arteries of a coastal town with the countryside being the sea. And I’m heading to the beach.

It’s early evening, and has been an average day working from home with its usual frustrations and I need to get out for some space to myself. I’m not a sit-in-front-of-the-TV kind of bloke, hence the name of this blog, so my me time is usually outdoors. If day-to-day life is a clattering goods train, these moments are my buffers. Sometimes I have company, though it is not important. I will head out for a walk or a run, or workout regardless, as it is me looking after me. I have lived with me for long enough now to know what I need for myself to stay on track and how only I can be the driving force behind that, no one else. If you live your life to others’ standards, you are probably selling yourself short. Accountability. Be responsible for your successes and failures.

I’ve been in relationships before where after a period of niceness, eyes would begin to roll as I laced up my trainers for an evening run. Seemingly, keeping me indoors and watching me descend into misery for selfish reasons is preferable to me coming back as a better version of me in order to continue to provide humour, advice and support.

So I arrive on that clattering goods train at the station of the point I’m trying to make. Being selfish is creeping out of the door to do something ultimately destructive, despite passionate pleas. It is not selfish to take time for yourself away from life, people, situations or anything that causes you stress for the ultimate goal of health and happiness for both you and those around you. Fact. It is more valid and important than ever during the Coronavirus pandemic with mental health seemingly high on the agenda. Becoming selfish for an hour or so every day could be the difference.

Stay positive. Don’t delay your own well being.

Small tasks, busy mind.

I was half tempted this week to temporarily change the title of my blog to My Indoor Living Room, but realised that this is a nightmare to do, and also that the indoor living room is exactly what I’m trying to escape. I read a very interesting post on social media by one of the few famous people I take seriously enough to respect, and he talked about making choices during lockdown as well as life in general, choosing to do what you should do as opposed to what you feel like doing. So, think of the dilemma of setting your alarm for a 5am run. Then the alarm goes off and the urge to hit snooze is overwhelming. He used a phrase about choosing to meditate than to contaminate his mind with nonsense from social media, the internet in general, and this blog of course. Just read to the end of this post though, and I promise there’ll be a meme of a cat. It made me think about what I’m doing during all this to cope, so I wanted to share a few things that are keeping me going. There have been some incredibly tough moments, mainly to do with my situation and my mental health has taken a few beatings in the past month, so I naturally do what I have trained myself to do – I make an island of myself. I find activities for me to do to keep my head above water. A well known saying that goes something like, “A drowning man cannot save another man from drowning”, dispelling theories of selfish behaviour to a degree. So in order to be all that I can be for others, I need to take care of myself for a while. The world seems to spin fine without me, and most people seem just as happy with me out of the way, so I just focus on finding a place within myself.

One way I do this is setting myself small challenges. Right at this moment in time, I have (mostly physical) challenges going on like seeing how fast I can sprint up a hill I’ve found. Or seeing if I can complete a song doing push ups throughout, seeing if I can complete different fitness tests, and also seeing how low I can get my resting heart rate. I’m also closely monitoring the progress of an oak tree sapling in the garden, and the speed of the decomposition of my compost heap. It’s safe to say I’m busy with lots of things. But lots of little things help me stay on track and stay occupied.

Whilst lockdown has presented problems as well as opportunities to  improve areas of my life, I have generally fared better than the daily grind of commuting and stultifying office environments. It’s made me seriously think about my future, the people I work for (and question their ethics), and showed me hope that something alternative exists.

I do hope that you are all well and coping. I also hope that when we come out of this, all of the promises about the future and regrets about the past that I am seeing on social media are followed through and are not just empty hashtags. This really is an opportunity.

The COVID-19 Effort.

I think it’s safe to say that we are living in a testing time at the moment. Comparisons are being made to World War 2 in all sorts of places – about how people did what they could, made a difference, and stuck it out. The War Effort. It played on my mind a couple of weekends ago when I was out for a run at the same time that I would normally be doing a ParkRun, so I devised a cunning plan during that run to use social media to attract my ParkRun friends (and hopefully their friends, and their friends etc, even non-runners) to a virtual 5k run that I would host every Saturday morning until things are back to normal. I realised that, as noted in my last post, I am happy to be a lone runner, but some people need that sense of camaraderie and togetherness to help them run, and indeed enjoy running. Well I set it up and it is going OK, it gives us something to do, and I’m glad I’ve done it. It is my COVID-19 Effort, or part of it. What sort of ambassador of well-being, fitness and the outdoors would I be if I wasn’t trying something to help people stay fit, healthy, sane and motivated at a time of national crisis?

It’s interesting how in my job, I find the office environment very draining and it usually leaves me feeling bereft in many ways, but working from home, especially the first week, I have found to be very liberating. I am doing exactly the same job, same hours, but without being surrounded by so many things that breed negativity. In a bizarre paradox however, my employers I feel have spotted this ‘lack of motivation’ they call it, and it has surfaced at my many one-to-ones and end of year reviews. They are keen to discover what it is about me that keeps me ticking. Unfortunately for them, the many things that get me motivated are the polar opposite of what they are paying me to do. A few posts ago I talked if how I was politely forced into giving a talk to my team about well-being in the office (my subject choice, not theirs), and how it went. The feedback from that session was overwhelming positive, and many people expressed an interest in seeing more of that side of me. Take the stage COVID-19, and home working. My team have turned to me to lead meditation and mindfulness sessions once a week. I have done one already and now the next session is being made available to the national team. Pardon the distasteful pun, but I’ve gone viral it seems. But I do find it strange to observe that a few weeks ago, the situation that practically had me disengaged, disinterested, looking for the exit, has now filled me with purpose. I’m also now providing home work out ideas for them too. I’m definitely trying to make the negative of this situation into a positive.

I hope all of you are well, and I mean this sincerely (also because I know how unpopular this blog is), reach out to me if there’s anything you need. This is a testing time and it’s showing little signs of returning to normal soon, so drop me a line if you need support in any way, unless it’s to get you a loaf of bread.

Smile, breathe, and go slowly.

Sorry, I’m still here.

It’s been a month since my last post. I was getting sick of the hundreds of emails flooding in every day, begging me to write another world-righting, life-saving, pity-inducing blog post, that I felt I needed to resurface. Then I woke up.

In one month, look at what’s happened. It sounds strange to say but none of this C-word stuff affected me until a fortnight ago when the marathon I have been training towards was cancelled. My running motivation has spiralled somewhat since then. I do sincerely hope that anyone reading this is coping well, both mentally (huge aspect of this) as well as physically.

I myself am working from home and have been for two weeks, and I’m actually thriving. The grind of getting up early to go into the city to a job (or colleagues?) that I’m not particularly thrilled about is no longer there, I’m working in my own space, dealing with people over the phone, email and video calls. Very manageable.

Other than the inconvenience of, for want of a better word, looters, grabbing everything under the sun from the shops and having to work from home, my life has changed very little. I’m naturally a lone wolf anyway. I run alone (not really out of choice, but more on that later), I generally keep in touch with friends via technology, as busy lives dictate, and I’m not what you’d call a social butterfly, so being told to stay indoors, go out alone, don’t mix, is actually OK with me. Really, it is. I do love a good chinwag and I do love having friends, but I prefer to be in control of the stream of contact.

As aforementioned I train alone. Historically, it has been like this for years mainly because I’ve given up trying to recruit training partners. I suffer from what I call, at the moment, reverse elitism. It’s a theory I have about the way I am treated generally. It goes a little like this: people assume that because I am quicker than most, I am therefore too fast for them to run with me, therefore I will get bored/make fun of them/shout at them/make them feel like shit. So I am usually a victim of a kind of reverse snobbery. It’s almost like it is thought that it’s not worth even bothering with me because I’ll just turn around, sneer, look said person up and down, kick dirt in their face and run off (at a easy five-and-a-half minute mile pace of course). This is disappointing as nothing could be further from the truth. I openly accept and encourage runners of all abilities, speeds, ages, whatever and enjoy sharing a hobby with them. The only elitism or attitude of any description you’ll get from me is if someone is too cocky, or elitist themselves, or is pretty much an arsehole, then you’ll see the not so welcoming side of me. In my experience, I’ve ran with people who have basically turned round and shouted at me, when I’m just trying to encourage them. I wonder if it’s more them than me (self conciousness). In turn, it’s made me very self conciousness about my attitude if and when I run with someone. I’m so used to having my head bitten off for trying to motivate (“Yes it’s alright for you though isn’t it???! You’re a good runner!!!”) that I don’t really feel comfortable giving encouragement anymore. It is a shame but I guess that’s how it is. It’s easier to give encouragement to complete strangers as I pass them at my local ParkRun.

As an ambassador of outdoor things, it suddenly dawned on me last weekend that I have done absolutely nothing to encourage people around me to stay active as best they can during this period. So I took to social media and set up my own virtual alternative to the ParkRun, with the aim of giving us all a sense of community and achievement on a Saturday morning. Fingers crossed it has the desired effect.

As a tip if anyone is struggling mentally during this strange time we are now living through; structure your day as best as you can. Stick to a routine, no matter what it is. Follow the best guidance you can (health authorities), and if you can, avoid social media and too much news. Stay positive, have faith.