I Am a Devious Runner

It used to be so simple. I would plan when I would go for my run. I would wake up, knowing that running was going to be one of the first things I did that day. I might have a coffee first. But I wouldn’t let too much time go by, before heading out for my run, lest I get a little lazy and stall so much that I (gasp) miss my run all together. Despite being fully aware of the benefits I would reap from the run, the active meditation, the hit of fresh air and outdoorsyness, the undeniable endorphin rush, and bragging rights (even if only in my head) for the remainder of the day, some days, I would still stall a bit too much.

In the last couple of weeks, that stalling has been filled with different emotions. To the point that I hadn’t been out for a run for over 2 weeks.

Sunday was different. Despite having been sick over 2 weeks ago, and despite the anxiety I was feeling about the new rules about running, during Covid-19, I went for a run. I was devious, and it was a good run.

Part of the stress was created because of articles such as this one, which I will note doesn’t say one shouldn’t run. Just that runners should be at least 10 feet apart from other people, while running. While articles such as these, make running during Covid-19 times, sound stressful, the real stress came from reading some people’s commentary on community Facebook pages about runners now being inconsiderate assholes. The people that scream the loudest are typically self-professed non- runners. They don’t seem to hold the same contempt for people walking in packs. People walking in groups of 2 or more who are oblivious to the idea of moving over and yielding, while “hanging out on the sidewalk”. The venom doesn’t seem to be directed at cyclists who whiz by on urban streets, which are designed to make it impossible to be the desired distance from pedestrians trying to keep appropriate distance on the sidewalk. Nor do they think there is anything hypocritical about a person admitting to be completely oblivious, whether by themselves with earbuds in, or with a stroller, and at the same time, publicly shaming the jogger who is doing their best to stay far away from them, without their cooperation. And when I say venom, I mean some people were encouraging others to physically assault people who dared to run by them.

I am an inherent rule follower. I internalize emotions from all directions. The climate for runners described above, even with me making sure I was being a responsible runner, made me too anxious to run for a bit. I still manage virtual strength and conditioning classes and yoga from my favourite proprietors (mentioned in this blog post), but I have been deeply missing my runs.

Running was my path to greater self love in my early 30s. It has been a constant for almost two decades. It keeps me balanced and sane and helps me manage my ongoing underlying feelings of anxiety.

I had already planned to get out this past Sunday. But when my niece asked me on Friday if I had ever used Strava, I responded in an old aunt manner and said, no I usually just map it out and go. But when she described to me, how it works, I thought it sounded like extra incentive to get out and test Strava.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at 7:30 instead of the originally planned 6:30 (part of my strategy to avoid crowds). I had a coffee in bed with Gavin and the dogs while doing my usual skim through social media. Part of my brain was continuously reminding myself not to linger too long and to GTFO and run.

At 8:30, with the Strava app newly added to my phone, I headed out for my first run in awhile. The weather was in my favour, as it was slightly overcast and threatening to rain, presumably keeping too many walkers off the sidewalks. If the weather had been more similar to Saturday, sunny and 12, the sidewalks might have more resembled the crowded, non-social distanced, sidewalks on High Park, where we went for our first drive in over a month, to drop off goodies to some of Gavin’s colleagues. But I digress.

The sidewalks were nicely empty on my usual, near 6k route. There were a couple times where I saw someone ahead in the distance and planned to safely divert onto the curb, but that person would turn off before I had to do so. The couple times I saw people approaching from the other direction, I was able to safely move into the bike lane (running the opposite way so I could safely see any incoming cyclists).

My run started off with my chest slightly heavy. I am not sure if I have seasonal allergies, cabin fever syndrome (not sure that is a real thing in relation to heavy lungs) or I am still slightly recovering from whatever ailed me over two weeks ago. But as I continued, the heaviness went away. I found my usual stride. I was able to push whatever Covid-19-related anxiety away and enjoy the run. It was medicine for my soul.

My new Strava app showed I was a little slower than usual. Understandable for many reasons, and perhaps a little incentive for this typically non-competitive runner, to pick up the pace a little.

The stats shown on Strava from Nicole’s run on Sunday. 3.27 mi distance, Avg Pace – 11:44/mi, Moving Time – 38:21.

When the pandemic was in its early stages in Toronto, mid-March, and it was publicly understood that running was one of the few things we would be able to continue doing outside, I boldly thought I would start training for my own half marathon or more. Now, my goals are much more realistic. With new information, and new experiences, my current goal is to get out for a short/medium sized run, a couple times a week, while responsibly keeping my distance from others. I am just as psyched for this opportunity, in the current climate, as any marathon distance could provide.

Be safe. Keep your distance. And be kind to others and assume they are doing the best they can with new rules.

Nicole Plotkin is a law clerk, who enjoys good food, spending time with her husband and two dogs, and her regular workouts, including (now deviant) running.

12 thoughts on “I Am a Devious Runner

  1. Nice post. Welcome to Strava. I enjoy using it and seeing my friends all over the world. I was hesitant to run – but finally got back out there. It felt so great – running and or walking just rejuvenates me.

  2. Also, I’m shocked by the people in the Facebook group. That’s awful. As a solo walker with dog, I’ve had some issues with speedy young runners coming up too fast to get out of their way but I haven’t said anything, I wouldn’t think to post about it, and I would never generalize to all runners or even all young runners or all speedy runners. Bah.

    1. The vitriol about it on that page was shocking, but there is a segment of people on that page that tend to get carried away, in a mean way.

      1. There’s something about online interactions that does that. How quick people move to judge and assume the worst.

  3. As another runner, I’ve experienced much of the anxiety you describe – I want to continue running, for various reasons, but I don’t want to endanger myself or others. I’ve seen some people suggesting that leaving the house at all (other than for food/medicine) is selfish and dangerous. Add to that the fact that my usual running paths have become more crowded of late, sometimes with people who seem less conscientious than I am about giving space, and my stress-relieving hobby has turned into something a little more…stressful.

    Right now, the mental and physical benefits for me outweigh most of the extra stress that comes with avoiding other while out and about, although I have added back in some nighttime runs and jump at the chance to go out on rainy days! I’m glad that you were able to get out and run on Saturday and have plans to reintroduce socially-responsible running into your routine. 🙂

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