Vicky Allan

THE months that have passed since the beginning of lockdown have been a time of no mass marathon events, no trail running races, no weekly Park Runs. Yes, we’ve been able to run, but we’ve mostly been on our own, atomised. While Phase 1 has brought us the ability to make a socially distanced run with a single buddy or a coach, the thud of hundreds of runners' feet on the ground together feels a distant memory. Hence, the big struggle for runners, and those who have only just started, has been doing it solo. This is no minor loss, given that peer support has been found to be hugely important, particularly for beginner runners.

But, as with all things, we have been finding other ways of supporting each other – challenges issued on social media, mass events that you can participate in by phone mapping, zoom chats between running club members. Even my son has been issued a run, walk or cycle challenge by his football club. It’s 50km in a month, and the kids are smashing it.

In a way there has been no better time to start or develop your running. There is plenty of advice out there as well as loads of encouragement. Back in April, I participated, as a swimmer, in an online event run by the outdoor exercise organisation WayOutside. Among those speaking was Sophie Amy Grant, an ultrarunner and coach, who was struggling with the loss of her own races over the year. “Staying motivated can be a little tricky,” she said, “But one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to write it down. Write down a plan. It’s easier to get up each day knowing what you have to do, rather than thinking about it as you go along.” Almost two months on, that advice remains strong.

Where to find help for beginners

Jog Scotland have made their online Learn to Run programme available free at What’s so great about it is that it progresses more slowly than most programmes, so is ideal for those who have been inactive and want a gradual introduction. If an app is what you want, though, it’s hard to beat joining the millions across the world who already started up as runners through Couch to 5K. It’s simple and beautiful, with only three rules: walk lots, go slowly and stop if it’s too much, and the only fitness requirement is the ability to walk for 15 minutes.

Where if you want to run a mountain

A couple of weeks ago Centurion running held their inaugural virtual event, the One Community challenge. The idea was that you chose one of the target goals, of distances between 5km and 100 miles, over the course of a week. Over the week of July 20-26 they are upping everyone’s game with One Up. Runners, they say, “can shoot for one of 8 different elevation levels”, which are symbolised by particular mountains. You don’t, however, have to select your target at the start, you can enter and just keep a tally and see where you get to. 10 percent of all their revenue is donated to MIND.

Where if you want to get a finish time on an actual course

With #MYSKYRACE created by Skyrunning you can find out how you would do in a particular race by training in the outdoors locally yourself. It’s based around an algorithm developed from research studies carried out on runners over the years. Using biometrics as well as GPX and ascent and descent measurements, it creates a finishing time from whatever race you choose from their ISF Certified Course list. The courses are all under four hours for the winning time with less than 2,500m vertical climb. As the season progresses, more will be added.

Cultivate your own online running group

As with all activities, people already in groups have been cheering each other on, and offering solace, by keeping in touch online – plus possibly even a buddy run now we’re in phase 1. Stacey Holloway, who runs WayOutside, an organisation that builds communities around running, biking and swimming, observes, “Being part of a group has helped me keep running during lockdown, when I would have slowly fizzled out otherwise. I find it hard to motivate myself to go out on my own and the regular Whatsapps from the others and the enthusiasm for running together again when lockdown is over has kept me going. We had an online social night to catch up on the chat we've been missing and I have had a socially distanced run with one of the others so far, and looking forward to another!”

Where to join the hunt

Jog Scotland is hosting a weekly scavenger hunt challenge on its social media pages, with an aim to get people to feel like they are getting active together while staying apart. This week’s challenge has involved taking pictures of things beginning with the letter G whilst out running.

Where to get a training challenge from an athlete

Throughout the covid period Scottish Athletics has been running “I Challenge you”, in which athletes, including Guy Learmonth, Allan Smith, Josh Kerr and Nikki Manson, have issued training challenges. The latest, by Manson, has been, essentially, a timed “wall sit”, in which you see how long your thigh, bum and other muscles can keep you propped up against a wall.

Where to run the West Highland Way

Okay, it’s never going to be quite the same as taking on the full-on wildness of the 95-mile route from Milngavie to Fort William, whilst climbing 14,760ft, but still, you can at least do the distance on your own and locally. The organisers of this yearly ultra trail have set up a virtual race which will take place from Midnight on June 12 to noon on June 21. You can either run it solo or in a team over nine days. If you get a taste for it, you could even run the real thing in June 2021.

What to watch if you’re not sure about your trainers

Lorena, Light-Footed Woman, on Netflix, shows what you can do with some proper running talent and a pair of sandals. The short film tells the story of Lorena Ramirez, an ultra-runner who lives in a shack in Tarahumara mountain range in Chihuahua, Mexico, and who, in sandals and skirts, wins races. Beautifully shot, following her as she runs over her local mountain trails, and with the wonderful line, delivered by her when she is offered a pair of shoes, “I don’t think l’ll use them. The people who do are always running behind me.”

What to read to keep you going, in life and running

If you’ve not yet read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, then this is a must. The great novelist Haruki Murakami has created something that is more than a running book, it’s a memoir about life and how running feeds into it, and about the quasi-religious experience of completing an ultra marathon. It’s about what running teaches us about everything else. Murakami writes, “Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day.”.

And, last of all, remember there’s still hope

And with that comes goals. It’s still hoped, for instance, that the Great Scottish Run will happen in Glasgow in October, and that the Edinburgh Marathon, which was switched to September, will see crowds take to the streets. And even if all that doesn’t happen, there’s always next year. Summer 2020 could be a time to let your imagination roam, let yourself dream, set your sights on a run you perhaps never previously dreamed of, and get training.