Running the lockdown marathon: how runners have adapted throughout the pandemic

Woman running via Unsplash

Running has offered a lifeline to people everywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for those who enjoy competing in marathons and other organised running events, the ‘buzz’ of running en masse has been sorely missed.  

Over the course of 2020 – and looking into the near future of 2021 – marathons, like many other events, have had to shift online. Adapting such large events to a digital setting is no easy feat, but runners everywhere have been getting creative. From running laps of their balcony to building up to a marathon with a collection of runs over time, runners are still partaking in these events and raising money for charity, even if they can’t do it in person. 

Jonathon Gilpin is currently training for the Edinburgh marathon that is set to take place as part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival over the weekend of the 29/30th of May. Although there has not yet been any announcement that the event will be cancelled or moved online, Gilpin is preparing for this scenario. Hoping to raise over £1,000 for Hope House, he plans to keep on running, whether or not he can attend the marathon in person: “If it gets cancelled, I’ve decided I’m just going to run it by myself anyway.” 

Another keen runner, Jess Draper, took part in the Great North Run Solo after the physical event was cancelled. As it was the 40th Anniversary of the Great North Run, the challenge was to complete 40 runs between 28th of June and the 13th September 2020 – one for each year of the famous Newcastle-based half marathon.

Some of Jess Draper’s Great North Run Solo routes

When comparing her experience to partaking in half marathons (including the GNR) in the past, Draper said: “The virtual experience was obviously very different in terms of not having that ‘buzz’ on the day and having loads of people around you and crowds cheering you on, which was such a big thing to help me get through the GNR.” She went on to explain that the challenge gave her a goal to work towards and she felt a huge sense of achievement from it. She added: “for my mental health and just general well-being it was so good for me to get out on these runs and have a goal at the end of it. Following the GNR solo social pages and getting email updates, did feel like you were part of a community.” 

Like Draper, people everywhere have relied on running to boost their mental health over lockdown. According to Statista, it has been the third most popular type of exercise during the lockdowns in the UK, and with over one million downloads of the ‘Couch to 5k’ app (a 92% increase compared to 2019), it looks like they’ll be many new participants when marathons recommence in person.  

Created via Wave.video by The Lens

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