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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale


Undoubtedly the sport that I was always best at; running. Almost without doubt, this relates to the fact that my natural physique allowed me to excel, as opposed to my limited technique in other sports.

To name just a few of the plethora of examples, whether you go far back enough to The Spencer Davis Group’s Keep on Running of 1965, Iron Maiden’s Run for the Hills in 1982 or Chase and Status’ 2008 release aptly named Running, the activity can always conjure a wealth of emotions. As though you’re either trying to evade something in distancing yourself from it, hunt for something new or merely just trying to get a grip of something, the activity serves a distinct purpose.

Running consumed a significant part of my life as a teenager. Training twice a week at Barnet Copthall Stadium. This involved entering cross country competitions, which I hated with a vengeance as stamina was certainly not something I knew how to make my friend back then, during the winter in the hope that they’d enhance my track performances over the summer. Regardless of whether I actually much ever enjoyed it the activity, it offered a sense of community, accomplishment and discipline. All of these things definitely served my adolescent battles in dealing with self-worth, feeling misunderstood and holding such uncertainty over the future. I mean as thankful as I am for having had an incredibly stable life, no sane and well developed person can surely ever have enjoyed the most hormonal stage of maturing. All of this whilst managing to imbue you with a strong sense of armor for future obstacles in dealing with feeling such discomfort.

Hitting puberty early pretty early – my voice had pretty much fully broken by year 7 and I was about the same height as I am now – definitely served me well in Physical Education. At this stage, size could overlook a lack of prowess; especially as I found when playing rugby, hockey and even winning the 100m in the sports day in the first year of my secondary school. It was during the borough’s athletic championships in year 8 that I was scouted by the coaches at Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. Just the boost that my confidence needed at the time.

Happy days back then, when I actually felt that I may be able to make something of myself in athletics. Who was I kidding?

The fact is, that I was just not that good and to be so would require so many sacrifices that I was never willing to make. It’s not even as though I particularly ever enjoyed watching athletics or envied their lifestyle. It was just something to do at the time and I’m glad that I did, as competing definitely helps with learning to take defeat along with handling bumps in the road. The only person that I have a real interest in setting competition against is myself, whatever that says. How fast somebody can run from one place to another or around a track isn’t something for which I’m ever able to summon that much particular interest!

Now running has definitely returned as a big part of my life. Albeit as something solitary, which is particularly handy during this brutal isolation period that we’re all facing. The insular nature of running is something that is celebrated in Sillitoe’s celebrated kitchen-sink drama film of 1962, the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, in which it provides solace to a troubled and overlooked protagonist. This is in catering for some actual independent head-space and providing the otherwise absent sense of achievement. These themes seem to tie-in so well with what many face during this ugly Covid-19 crisis.

It cannot be overlooked that running provides positive physical and mental health. The vitality of looking after yourself is particularly necessary given the troubled state of global health at the minute. Whilst I may well find it hard to stomach being able to compare and contrast my times now with the days of when I could rather effortlessly complete a 400m race well subbing 60 seconds; but those days are long gone. During this stagnantly torrid state of social distancing, running every other day is something that I seem to find almost essential in affording some extra sense of purpose and order to an otherwise incomplete sense of. If you’ve not already heard of or are a part of, I find the app ‘Strava’ as useful in helping to combat the insular state of running, adding a sense of inclusion during these troubled times and allowing for you set your own goals.

So yes nothing original in the sentiment, but we all have to support each other, keep going and stay positive to restore the world to some semblance of normality. All that we can surely do is to love life when it’s going well and stomach it at times like now, where it could be far better and be especially grateful if we are lucky enough to be in fine health. Any other concerns have to be seen as largely irrelevant during this uncertainty.

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