The pandemic and running friends!

Today I completed the annual Ely Runners New Year’s Eve 10K. It is an amazing event, that sells out fast every year: this year it had to be done a little differently as, at the time of writing, the global pandemic is still very much making itself felt, and I live in what is now a tier 4 area. The NYE 10K had to be virtual, and the Government guidelines and laws had to inform how the race would be conducted. I decided to use the same event route used for this race every year, but, I ran it alone, cold, and in a reflective mood. For days now I have been thinking of what theme I should use for new work on my blog; and as I set off on my 10K today, and had covered about 1.5K, I spotted Charlotte in her car at a junction ahead: I was pleased to see her. Charlotte is a major organiser for the event, and all round Ely Runners hero. I approached her car, she shouted a friendly insult at me and drove off. It wasn’t just any old insult, it was a baaaaad one – not one to be documented in my blog. I could not imagine a world without Charlotte’s inappropriateness in it. Then it hit me. My group of running buddies have got to the stage where they share each other’s problems, tragedies, successes, jokes, opinions; and they can shout THAT kind of insult at me, safe in the knowledge that it will not offend, and it genuinely is meant as affectionate (at least I hope so)! This time my blog is about running exploits since August 2020, but with a focus on the characters whose company I shared: people I regard as friends.

The 2020 Virtual Ely Runners NYE 10K

Time to rewind. The last time I blogged I covered the Stour Valley Path Ultra with Ely Runner, Shaun: a man with a quick, dry sense of humour, who I have had the odd socially distanced run with since then. During one of our more recent trail runs, Shaun and I turned into a sweating, slightly out of breath politician/ virologist hybrids. Shaun is a top running buddy.

The legendary Shaun: eco-warrior, politician and virologist.

You will have read about Lauren in my blog, and you might have read hers https://girlrunninglate.com/blog/. To say that Lauren and her family have had a bad year is an understatement; throughout the pandemic and the tough time she has had, she has remained the usual superb running buddy and friend, who has joined me on random runs; the first leg of a duathlon in September; part of Ely Runner, Natalie’s leg of the Virtual Round Norfolk Relay; a Christmas run with Pete, and a weekly cycle with Bethan (more on that in a moment).

The amazing Ely Runner and friend, Natalie, who Lauren and I joined to support her through her leg of the Virtual 2020 Round Norfolk Relay.

Lauren and fellow Ely Runner, Bethan started cycling on Wednesdays after work a while back, and they either invited me, or I muscled my way in – I can’t remember – either way, it’s good cross-training and always a laugh. Bethan is hilarious, not just because she never seems to change gear and struggles to indicate left, but because she laughs a lot and her happiness is infectious. I always look forward to the weekly cycle: pandemic permitting.

One of the Wednesday cycles with the amazing Bethan!

Lauren had planned with fellow running buddy, Pete, to complete their own Club Christmas run, given they did not participate in the annual festive Ely Runners jaunt from Woodditton to Ely this time round. Vodka has become a bit of a tradition on this run, and determined not to miss out, Pete made some and stuck it in his back pack! I have given up all spirits, but did treat myself to one bottle of Guinness, carefully decanted into one of my ultra-vest soft bottles. I loved spending time with Pete and Lauren on some muddy trail, punctuated with their regular Rolo Vodka stops (over a half marathon distance)!

With the awesome Pete: Ely Runner and Rolo Vodka pusher!

As previously mentioned, our club organises an annual cross-country Christmas run from Woodditton back to Ely. It involves hilarity; festive costumes; food stops; mud (lots of it) and that now famous Rolo Vodka! This year, we had to run in small groups, which was allowed at that time, and I found myself in a superb group of Ely Runners. Among them was Andrew Scarlett, legendary for the miles he puts in, and his general enthusiasm. I have shared some tough events with Andrew: a couple of ultras, the Marriott’s Way Trail Marathon, The Surrey London Ride 100 as well as many other races and parkruns. I will say though, that Andrew let us down this year, as it is tradition that he falls flat on his backside in the mud on this run. Despite me at times begging him to fall, it was not to be. Thanks for hanging on at times on the Christmas run, Andrew, and allowing me to catch up!

Andrew ‘failed to fall’ Scarlett

This leads me to Emily – top nerd (in a good way) and something of an enigma. Emily clearly loves trail, and the muddier and rougher the better – but, she also swears a lot about such activities, and gives the impression that she partly resents them. Emily and I only run trails, and she loves planning them. One of the best things about Emily is her amazing humour, which came to the fore when she joined our small pod on the recent Club Christmas run: her anecdote about thistle injuries, a camera and Boots the Chemist had me laughing so much that my face hurt: she’s brilliant.

Emily ‘no filter/ trail legend’ Knight!

There are others I would loved to have said a few words about, but for various reasons our paths simply haven’t crossed much during these difficult months. But regular check ins with Lionel; Jon; Lisa; Andy T; the Berries and others, has made the pandemic that more tolerable. Instant messenger runner groups with names like ‘The Hash Brown Appreciation Society’ and ‘The Red Face Gang’ have also provided humour and support!

Back to today. That loud, embarrassing insult, yelled from Charlotte’s car – it reminded me that being part of a running community brings with it great friends, laughter and camaraderie: much needed during these strange times.

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