A lone runner heads along the clifftops. It is early morning, but already warm as the sun beats down from a breathless, clear sky and they are feeling the heat as they run up yet another hill. To their left the sea is calm and a deep blue, while to their right the limestone meadows are a mass of wildflowers, in waves of yellow, white and purple. The air is full of the songs of skylarks which is almost loud enough to mask the sound of their own breathing. They are in their own world, at one with the surroundings and lost in their thoughts. Then their attention is drawn to something in the distance, another runner, coming towards them. As they draw closer their eyes strain to identify the person and yes, it is a fellow Purbeck Runner. A brief stop, further apart than normal and the questions: “How are you?” “How’s it going?” “How’s your running?” The answers dictate how the conversation proceeds and then someone says they “need to keep moving.” There is a parting “keep safe” and they head off, immersing themselves back into their own worlds again. Chance meetings like this have played out many times, in many settings and while in themselves may not seem exceptional, at the moment they are special, as this is running in lockdown. Such brief meetings will be remembered and make all the difference.
Moments like this serve to remind us of the exceptional circumstance that we live in. The members of the Purbeck Runners, like everyone else, continue to experience the full spectrum of everything that the Coronavirus pandemic brings with it from NHS and care workers in the frontline of the battle, to the other key works keeping essential services running or those coping with isolation, or challenging situations within their own families and jobs. As the weeks go by it doesn’t get any easier, but there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel and while out running it is uplifting to see the signs of everyone’s solidarity and gratitude for key workers in the growing collection of rainbows, painted pebbles and signs.
Talking to fellow runners it is not surprising how their running has helped them through this crisis. For some it has been a time to back off a bit and just run, enjoying the countryside and perhaps explore new paths and new routes. Others have really gone for it, upping their training and setting themselves new personal goals. Many have joined in with group challenges and fundraising. While for some, circumstances have prevented them from running as they used to, but those outings they can manage have been even more important. Whatever the individual approach and motivation the Purbeck Runners have kept in touch with each other and been sharing some amazing photographs from their runs, so I make no apology that once again there are more photographs than words.
Collective challenges have been a great way for runners to keep in touch and to make up for not being able to run together. The ever resilient Saturday Morning Crew have been in the thick of these challenges, so if you see a runner suddenly stop and take a selfie next to building or random object, it’s probably a member of the “Crew” bagging another letter in the alphabet or something with a “royal” connection. Lots of the Purbeck Runners completed the NHS Rainbow Runs and their medals have now arrived as a record of their achievement, but also a reminder of the special reason why they did it.
Abigail Baker and Rose Clarke took part in a unique global event called the Wings for Life Race. Raising money for people with spinal cord injuries, the participants started a run at exactly the same time all over the world with a virtual chase car starting 30 minutes later, so the faster you run the further you get before you are caught. As you run you receive feedback through your headphones as to how close the car is to catching you, which is a novel way to do a race on your own, but against thousands of other runners and with an incentive to push yourself! As you can see from the photographs below, Abi and Rose did brilliantly.
With no parkruns it was not surprising that Ross Wayne invented his own, the Peveril Point parkrun. The course started by the Welcome to the Jurassic Coast sign on the Ullwell Road, headed along the seafront all the way to Peveril Point, including that steep slope after the pier and then finished back on the seafront at the Clock Tower. What a great route! Ross, as you can see below, set a cracking time and I know he has been back and reduced it further. I could do with a bit of speed work so maybe I’ll give it a go and try and post a fastest age group time before the elites have a go – keep it quiet!
While all this was happening we had VE Day. It was going to be a huge event in Swanage with street parties and all sorts of celebrations, which of course could no longer happen. However, running through the town it was good to see the bunting and flags had still appeared, along with the photographs in front windows of those who had served in WW II which was a moving reminder of the true meaning of the day and something to reflect on during one's run. The town fell quiet for two minutes silence and then later there was the toast “for those that gave so much, we thank you” shared across walls and hedges between neighbours observing the moment of remembrance, but also reminded of the current challenges as they socially distanced.
According to meteorologists May was the sunniest since records began. It has been an absolute joy to be running out in the countryside on the downs, across the heath, through the forests and along the coastline. After the wet winter the spell of hot sunny weather has made it a spectacular Spring. The ever changing wildflowers and all the wildlife bursting into Spring activity has made every run an adventure with something new and exciting to see or hear. We really are so fortunate to be able to run in this wonderful Isle of Purbeck. So many great photographs have been taken by members and while space only allows for a few to be shown below, they hopefully capture something of why this is such a great time of year to be out running on the trails.
With so much time running in the countryside in the company of farm animals, it is perhaps not surprising that the animal loving Purbeck Runners wanted to include some in their selfies, all done at a safe distance of course!
As summer arrives and we have lockdown slowly lifting, there is a mixture of cautious optimism and uncertainty. Locally, nationally and globally our news is full of stories that range from horrendous and sad to hopeful and inspiring. Our running helps us through all this, but whatever the circumstances we will keep putting one foot in front of the other, because as one famous runner said: “We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves.” Who said that? Answer next month.
Stay safe and keep running.
Once again thank you very much to all the club members who have provided stories and photographs that I have used in this article.