Lost and Found in Lockdown

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Michelle Homden during the 2018 Brussels Marathon.

Michelle Homden explores the ups and downs for Serpies during lockdown.

A 20-minute bike ride passing a triumphal arch, some art nouveau buildings, a brutalist fountain and the former home of beloved Belgian singer Jacques Brel is a suitable commute for a job spent largely in front of a screen. Lockdown replaced it with a shuffle from bedroom to living-room. It was far from being the hardest loss.

One Sunday in April, preparing for an evening run I selected one of those running-shirts with instant happy memories. This time it was the Rome Marathon 2019. I thought of those big city races with thousands of runners from all over the world, with supporters cheering, bands playing, volunteers handing out refreshments. With some anguish, I wondered if we would ever see them again.

In comparison with the loss of lives and livelihoods brought about by the pandemic, changing our race practices may seem trivial. But all losses, however small, must be acknowledged, especially if they relate to running when running is a mainstay of our mental health. For this reason, we asked Serpentimes readers ‘What have you lost, and found, in lockdown?’

Aggela Despotidou discovers the joy of cycling.

Cycling was a common theme, both lost and found.

Lost: my cycling commute. Which I nearly always liked and in the summer loved. Bookends to my working day. – Fliss Berridge

I am missing seeing my friends and going to cultural events but I found the joy of cycling and appreciating life even more! – Aggela Despotidou

Cancellation of some activities could mean more time for others.

Found: Time for family run/cycles as the girls are not in nursery/school. We are running more often but shorter (5-7k) with the buggy/bike followed by mini picnics. – Tamara Lopez

I’m missing the track, army boot camp and seeing friends; but loving long runs through central London’s deserted streets, cycling on empty roads, waking up to birdsong and daily scrabble matches with my partner Nick! – Catkin Shelley

Kevan and Lizzie Wilkinson during lockdown.

There was even a social side to lockdown.

We found new achievements that we thought impossible, completing our first ever 100 mile week, while Lizzie also ran 10 half marathons in 10 days and made lots of new ‘friends’ as we looped around. – Kevan and Lizzie Wilkinson

Certain innovations are worth keeping.

Found: weekly circuits session with Andy Reeves, a brilliant idea! Here’s hoping these supplementary sessions can continue post-lockdown, I do enjoy a bit of variety in my training. – Ben Stanton

Some findings were transcendental, like the dawn and literature.

Found: 6am! Now I need to get out and run before work and before the park crowds! And so I can cope with the daily work team video call at 9am! – Fliss Berridge

Found: Boxes of books! Everyone is clearing out their houses during lockdown. Often I stop during a run to peruse these boxes. The other day I ran home with Pat Barker’s 900 page Regeneration Trilogy. – Diana Valk

Many of us took to virtual races. I have enjoyed virtual marathon relays with a group of Serpies using WhatsApp. The rules are: choose your route, send in your time, add lots of photos and, above all, enjoy yourself. Living in Brussels meant I could photograph some different landmarks. London is a wonderful city but it doesn’t have a Temple of Human Passions.

Due to travel restrictions, I was unable to attend my mother’s funeral in March. Her death, unrelated to Covid-19, was a desperately sad experience. But I cope, much helped by an inherited, if twisted, sense of humour, the support of friends and colleagues, and the utter joy of running in the fresh air. I think most Serpies will know what I mean.

Michelle Homden joined the Serpie beginners’ course in 2008. At that time she found the idea of running the Two Parks unrealistically ambitious. Twelve years on, she dreams of running a marathon in every EU capital, having already managed six with plenty more to go.