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Fighting on the frontline
This newsletter was first published on Patreon on 20 December 2021
I haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve heard, I feel like I’m in my own mini version of Squid Game right now. As the news rattles on endlessly in the background, with the numbers of Covid cases screaming up again, the actual thing has entered our home.
Since the pandemic began, Covid was always this thing “out there”. In our sleepy corner of south-west England, very few people seemed to actually get it. Sure, the world was locked down, the shops were shut and the roads were quiet, but it all felt surreal more than scary. In some ways it was actually nice. Life slowed down, the world was quieter.
But in the last few months, more and more people in our area have come down with it. People who were unvaccinated, and people who were vaccinated. Some cases were mild, but some were pretty grim. Closer and closer it came.
Then on Friday, my son got a positive test. Suddenly it was in the house. It was moving among us. We set him up in his bedroom with Star Wars jigsaws, magazines and limitless screen time so he could watch endless Mr Bean episodes and play Minecraft to his heart’s content (or until his brain fried). In the evenings, he set up a communal viewing of Modern Family, which he loves, so we could all watch together in different rooms and make comments in a chat screen. It felt odd, him upstairs, us downstairs, but we were still sharing.
But he was missing hugs. He kept saying he wanted a hug. A few times we put on masks and hugged for dear life. There’s a sliding scale between the risk of getting Covid and keeping our little boy in good spirits and we were trying to find the best place on it.
Except this morning we got a second positive test. Marietta, my wife, now has it. This has bigger implications. Firstly, she has asthma, so that’s a concern. Secondly, I’ve been sleeping in the same bed. I’ve just had a negative test, but it feels like it’s only a matter of time before I’m next. The dice gets rolled every day, and it feels like a game of chance as to whether I’m going to emerge unscathed.
One concern, for me, of course, is my training. If I get Covid, I’ll miss vital training time. I should be cranking up through the mileage chart right now. Instead, I was already stuttering. I’ve mentioned my bad back a few times in my Monday Musings recently, but this week it got a lot worse. On Friday I had to stop my run after 3km, and then walk home. It was so painful I couldn’t even jog home. I rested it on Saturday and tried again on Sunday, but this time I had to bail out almost immediately, the pain shooting through my back almost from the first step.
In a panic I spent most of the afternoon rolling around on a tennis ball, and then I went out and tried again. It was better, but by 5km it was hurting again and I had to stop. This doesn’t bode well for a man who wants to run over 3,000 miles.
Luckily I have a physio appointment booked in for today, which is why I’m doubly relieved to not have Covid just yet. But if I do get it soon, on top of a disrupted few weeks of training, it’s going to set me right back.
I guess training, just like racing, has its ups and downs, and getting through them, and making the most of the downs, is as important in life as it is in a race. Looking at the positives, I suppose getting it now would be better than getting it a month before a big race. It would also give me a chance to let my back recover. And I could spend lots of time meditating (which those who have done the race say is key training anyway) and breathing.
I’m currently reading Breath by James Nestor and he makes an incredibly strong case for the power of good breathing - he basically says that breathing through your mouth versus breathing through your nose is like drinking dirty pond water versus drinking fresh, filtered spring water. I sometimes think he’s overstating its power, but nasal breathing is something I’ve come across repeatedly in the past. I did a Bulletproof Runner course with Lee Saxby years ago in which we ran with our mouths taped, and we’ve since started doing that on my running retreats. Joe Kelly, our resident movement guru, says breathing is the base of core strength, and that nasal breathing has a multitude of benefits, from increased energy and oxygen saturation, to reduced perception of effort etc etc. So, even if I can’t run, there’s still stuff I can work on.
But despite these few thin strands of silver lining I might be grasping at, it feels like the year is collapsing in on itself right now. At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, I remember postponing my running retreats until October 2020. That felt completely safe. It would all be over by then, I was certain. And yet, here we are, December 2021, and I’m only now reaching the frontline of this battle. Well, let’s get it on. If I’ve learnt anything from all my ultra marathons, it’s that if you don’t quit, if you keep going, whatever gets thrown at you, you’ll get there eventually. One step at a time. One breath (nasal breath, of course) at a time.