We caught up with Challenge ambassador Matt Hooper to find out how he is staying motivated to carry on training despite the cancellation of some of his target events.
This blog was written on 19 March 2020. At the time of writing, social distancing has been advised in the UK in an effort to limit the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As the situation and guidelines may change on a daily basis, we strongly advise that you refer to the NHS guidance, if you are in the UK, for the latest information.
Before the COVID-19 situation, my official 2020 Challenge goal was to complete three ultramarathons - the Highland Fling, Loch Ness 360 and the Devil O’Highlands Footrace. I'd also signed up to the John Muir Way as training which would have brought my total to four.
Unfortunately, like so many events, both the John Muir Way and Highland Fling were cancelled in response to the pandemic.
Hearing the news, I was a little dejected. So much so that I recorded my lowest mileage week when the cancellation was confirmed, at just over 20 miles. Less than half the planned training distance. But, with the news that the 360 is, at the time of writing, still on, training runs to replace these distances are being planned.
With the short notice and requirement to think of the social implications, planning 30 and 50-mile routes needs to be carefully considered with appropriate points for the support required. The potential to have two long days instead of one 50 mile run is also under consideration and there are pros and cons to both.
The motivation to complete these 2020 challenges is there, with nothing stopping me from getting out at the moment. Being positive is vital on this journey not just now, but throughout. Not letting yourself get downbeat in these uncertain times is exactly why I enjoy running and being active. It gives you that opportunity to release any negativity which is surrounding you.
There is a real risk that, at some-point, self-isolation will be necessary. So, I have started to think about how to keep my fitness up for the challenges ahead, if I do end up stuck indoors.
Fortunately, I have my turbo trainer and bike available, so I am starting to locate space to set this up within the flat so I can plan some effective training rides. This will not be the same as pounding the trails, but for two weeks it might even be good to give the feet a rest!
Also, I’m sure there would be a huge potential to catch up on Netflix shows that I have not been able to watch. Fortunately, there has been no discussion of potential home improvements during this time so I think I am relatively lucky. The impact on training would potentially result in a temporary dip in fitness, but that should come back relatively quickly if built properly.
If the 360 was to be cancelled, I am fortunate to still have the Devil O’Highlands Footrace to look forward to. I've also got a place in the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace, which was not an initial 2020 challenge. However, there are many places in Scotland that I would like to explore. So, I would try and get out to as many of the mountains as possible and enjoy the wonderful scenery. I would also get some more use out of my road bike on the local routes to the central Lochs and Glens.
For the time being, the 360 is still going ahead and the trails are there, there is nothing stopping me going and enjoying those whilst I can, so that is exactly what I am doing! Last weekend, I was able to take in the second running of the new Parkrun in Faskally Forest near Pitlochry. Unfortunately, as I write, all Parkruns are cancelled until at least the end of March, so I'm glad I got to try it when I did.
On a personal level, I am fortunate enough to be able to work across two sites with very different dynamics. One is relatively quiet with wide spaces, limited footfall and in the middle of the countryside. The other, a University in the middle of Dundee. My partner, however, is a secondary school teacher. She will be supporting the pupils as far as possible in this strange situation. These are truly unprecedented times and the old adage of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has been heard numerous times. Relatively speaking we are in good spirits and waiting to see how this unfolds.
If you are in the unfortunate position to find yourself without any events to look forward to, the best thing I can say is to remember why you got into this journey! If I hadn’t run the Highland Fling before, I would go and run the route over the course of a few days and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Therefore I would actively encourage everyone to do the same if their events have been cancelled, where it is safe to do so. Go and explore, but take your time, there is no rush! Enjoy and savour it!