Social Distancing Y’all: Nowhere Else To Run

Surely by now the meaning of social distancing does not warrant a lengthy explanation. Its global understanding, a given; its implementation, universal. Therefore to contain the spread of COVID-19, a Movement Control Order (MCO) was decreed. For Malaysia, this meant being totally housebound, save for the very occasional outings for necessities. This also meant the prohibition of any activities beyond the confines of the home. For one who enjoys the outdoors, it meant that among other things, I have nowhere to run.

“There shall not be any physical activity in the park, nor hikes at my weekend playground.”

Author

Those Reasons That Make Me Run

You see, I love to run. Though I would not go as far to say that, “running is my life” it has featured prominently since I was young. Happy memories of school would often see me running the field and netball court. Classroom? That was where I could leave my bag, wasn’t it?

Donald Ford, M.D., MBA at USA’s Cleveland Clinic said running is also good for our longevity because it exercises the heart muscle. One study of over 50,000 runners between the ages of 18-100, found that running just five – ten minutes every day, even at slow speeds, was associated with reduced risks of death and heart disease.
Source: Image saved by Dawn Tomchik from Pinterest

Banish Those Thoughts Of A Run

On the first day of MCO my fingers were doing the greater workout as I scrolled through the very many exercise routines I had downloaded on my smartphone. My running shoes seemed to be begging for an outing, or so I imagined.

It was only five years ago when I picked up running again. Literally baby steps when I began as I had never gone beyond 400 metres at a stretch during school. When I got the hang of running distances, I was on my feet almost every other day.

My Happy Place; Those Park Runs

I am not usually in training of any sort. Quite simply, running is my joy. This I could secure, when I slip on my shoes and head to the park nearby at Lembah Kiara, my favourite stomping ground. Indeed this has become my happy place.

The tranquil surroundings of the park is my solace for a thoughtful run.
The park at Lembah Kiara is large enough to provide for my daily mileage. Each loop is just over one kilometre. The elevated loop, almost two kilometres long, offers a slightly more undulating terrain. Whichever one you choose, the trees provide ample shade and respite from the urban jungle.

Morning runs at the park held greater significance when it eventually became a daily social exercise. Swapping pleasantries and inquiries, the regulars sometime pause in their tracks to snatch a conversation. Outside the park gates, friendly repartees are exchanged with vendors; these are indeed invaluable contacts made for future references.

But what I treasure most is the morning spent with my running mates. We may not always run together. When we do, it is so much more than the shared mileage; these were also our thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams and goals. And if we were to make our individual loops around the park, we complete the morning with breakfast; or at the very least a quick drink at our favourite beverage Jenny Hong Soya Bean, parked right outside the gates.

Nowhere to run during MCO means no happy faces at the park in the mornings.

At the end of a run, by which time the sun is up and shining bright!
At the end of a run, if one isn’t looking too bedraggled and bathed in sweat!

That Pleasure From A Run

Copious studies, among them from the journal Cerebral Cortex, reveal that most people are happier and relaxed during and after runs. It relieves stress and boosts the mood. However, with nowhere to run, it seems that my production of endorphins is somewhat curtailed!

If you are even remotely wondering, I have not turned into a grumpy ogre. I had eventually found an exercise routine to suit my capability, sufficient to keep me attentive while strengthening my muscles.

And so, almost on a daily basis, I have taken to the exercise mat, keeping up with the maintenance of whatever muscles I had accumulated. This would be a series of nine strength training exercises; set out by Dr Jordan Metzl, a renown sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

The series of strengthening exercises to help improve my run.
Keeping this up at an almost daily basis, the alternative to running during the MCO.
Chart credit: The New York Times, Nine-Minute Strength Workout

Let it be said that while MCO remains in effect, there is a slight tinge of regret that I am still unable to put these strengthened muscles to the test. Nowhere to run also means that I sometimes have to keep myself in check when I am doing the grocery runs, lest I break into a jog from the car park to the entrance! So deprived I am.

Reminiscing Runs

On most days, now with time on my hands, I look back on some races that I have taken part in. Not one to sign up for many, I chose ones that bore significance to me; notably The Standard Chartered KL Marathon and Penang Bridge International Marathon. Both were half marathons; 21 kilometres being the only distance I would entertain, as running a full marathon was not a goal. However, there was just the one that I had often dreamed of.

Until the end of 2018, that is, when the opportunity to run the London Marathon arose. I pondered for days on whether I should take up the slot offered by The Royal Society for Blind Children. I finally committed to the marathon and the cause, fully aware of the need to dedicate myself to my training and, at the same time raise a relatively substantial amount for this charity. Not once was I ever rueful of the obligation I had resigned myself to. That entire experience features a significant milestone in my life.

The Virgin Money London Marathon

Indeed I find it somewhat inconceivable to note that a full year has passed since my preparation for the London Marathon. I had arrived in the capital last April, two weeks before the race. Then, I found my morning runs through the blossoming spring flowers in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Holland Park, through the streets of West London; nowhere to run was the least of my concerns.

The vast expanse of Hyde Park and that all that space to run.
At Hyde Park, 350 acres of everywhere to run! Most times the runs last a little longer with photo opportunities of landmarks at the periphery of the park.
Pristine white tulips among a myriad of others, visual relief during the run.
London in springtime meant running with the blooms. Holland Park, though significantly smaller in area, offered a variety of visual relief found in the pockets of gardens within.

Now A Proud Marathoner

I took on The London Marathon 2019 and have absolutely no regrets. Even more so now. I had somewhere to run, a goal to achieve. How did I fare?

The Virgin Money London Marathon medal.
My coveted medal, and indeed that dream came true.

The training and long runs leading up to the marathon was very much integral in building up my confidence. However I learnt that marathon running is not just about your physical prowess. It is most definitely a mental exercise too. After 25 kilometres, some three hours plus of running, it had turned into a game of mind over matter. Completing the 42 kilometres is a reality – you just have to remind yourself that it is indeed a possibility. Yes, you can see this through.

In full gear running the marathon.
“Almost there” is a cheer often heard even as early as ten kilometres into the race! This time I smirked knowing that I am about five kilometres to the end!
Three friends who managed to gain entry to the race together; proud to wave the flag at the end of the run!
From left to right: Norizan, Azlina and Raty. I get by with a little help from my friends for we have trained together and were fortunate to run the race in the same year. So blessed to have good friends share the epic adventure of my lifetime!

We Do What We Must

Running the marathon, then, is not unlike the MCO. Much of it is mind over matter.

Confined and restricted in our activities, we are committed to staying home. It matters not that I have nowhere to run. We all have to pull through with our sacrifices in tow. We each, in our own way, seek alternative pursuits to remain healthy.

For that in itself is why there is a Movement Control Order.

One of the trees at the park in the morning sun.
Sunlight dancing on the leaves. I have missed this morning treat and can only look forward to be at my happy place.

Interested In Running The London Marathon?

You can apply for a place in the The Virgin Money London Marathon through a ballot. It will open for about five days after the race of the present year (the dates vary each year). This is the most common form of entry but the odds of gaining a place has to really be in your favour! A new record number registers each year. In 2020 there were 457,861 ballot entries for 17,000 people.

An alternative could be through a charity entry, whereby you apply to individual charities (participating charities are already pre-determined) for a spot to run. Typically, you are required to raise a minimum fundraising amount in return for the opportunity to race.

Otherwise your application could be based on merit; consideration is dependent upon your official timing in previous races.


This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.

Azlina ALI

About Azlina ALI

Veteran journalist, wife, mother, with an ever burning passion to write and tell stories. Then throw in a dose of healthy diet and an active lifestyle, Azlina is a force to be reckon with. She's a lean, mean storytelling machine.

2 Replies to “Social Distancing Y’all: Nowhere Else To Run”

  1. This is an inspirational story of determination. I really do enjoy reading your chronicles and admire your sense of joie de vivre. Excellent piece!

    • Thank you so very much for your kind words Nazrah. I hope this piece had momentarily lifted you away from the MCO, or at least help you cope with it! Take care and stay safe.

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