Runner's World (UK)

FOR NOW WE RUN ALONE, BUT WE WILL BE TOGETHER AGAIN

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wasn’t for this pandemic. And the air! The air is almost Alpine because of the fewer cars. It’s so fresh you can chew on it. These are the good things.

After a while, the dance, stop and shimmy round the woodland paths to keep social distance becomes OK. It seems a very British quality that, even in the act of trying to save each other’s lives, we seem a tad embarrasse­d. I’m not. I’ll stop for you. I’m also greeting other runners, just a thumbs-up here, a wave there. There is a distant kinship, a feeling that we can get through this and that running will help.

On the way back from the woods, I fall in a good distance behind a dadand-son team who obviously don’t do this very often. The dad is balding and slightly portly but carries with him the air of someone who was fast back in the day. His son, about 14, is reveling in his spring-legged youth. He’s jumping over tree stumps, dodging between trees. His dad follows, then me.

For some reason, I get emotional at this. I’m enjoying it but it’s bitterswee­t. The son leaps up onto a wall and runs along it, about 15 metres along and a metre high. Dad does, too. It’s playful and slightly dangerous, reminding me of cross-country. They don’t know I’m following, but it makes me acutely aware of how much I love running with people, being part of the gang.

I know this will pass; we’ll gather at the start again to jostle, sweat, race and laugh. We’ll share that earthy physicalit­y. That’s what running is, that’s why I enjoy it. Its animalisti­c. But for now, we run alone and it hurts.

The old marathons have fallen away (for now), but we have been given a new one and we must run it – this is the Corona Classic.

The father and son vault off the wall. I follow them. There’s a hill now, quite steep. We slow down, adjust our form and lean into it.

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