Are you experiencing a touch of 'PMD' (postponed marathon depression)? runABC South news writer and UK Athletics coach Alan Newman takes a look at this issue through the prism of an athlete who was aiming for a sub-four-hour run in the UK's second largest 26.2 mile race – Manchester Marathon.
"PMD is that feeling known only to runners who have invested many months of meticulous preparation for what has now become a moving target, due to the extraordinary measures necessary to contain the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
"Sports people throughout the world and in every activity, right up to Olympic level, are in the same situation. And every player at every level agrees that nothing matters more than getting on top of the current virus and saving lives.
"Many frustrated marathon runners are currently bursting with stamina and resolve. We are, generally speaking, a resilient bunch and have consistently shown we can follow advice and guidance; maintain focus and discipline and we possess great endurance and forbearance.
"These qualities are needed now, both to deal with the present health crisis and then to come out the other side stronger than ever and ready to get back on the road, achieve our goals and raise vital funds for good causes along the way."
Alan's advice is to accept what you have no control over but ensure you make the most of whatever you can control. This means continuing to train while you can but in a socially acceptable and responsible manner; alone or in very small groups, away from the general public where possible. The last thing anyone wants to see in our towns at present is a crowd of sweaty runners, so please respect other people.
Training should be gradually reduced – Alan recommends by 10% per week, rather than the usual steep taper, unless you are planning an effort to get it out of the system, in which case consider a marathon-paced run at less than marathon distance (10 to 13.1mls for the less experienced; 15 to 20mls for experienced runners). Why not a full marathon training run? The answer is obvious – the physical effort depletes energy levels and reduces antibodies, both essential in the fight against any virus.
As for Manchester Marathon, due to be held on 5 April but postponed to 11 October, Alan got this first hand reaction to the postponement from 4:03:25 marathoner Tracey Dennis (Maidstone Harriers) on an easy run a couple of days ago: “My initial thoughts were that the timing could not have been worse as I was just about to start my taper and was feeling in good shape after the months of hard work I had put in and was ready to run a good marathon. However, the decision was the right one given the situation we are in."
Looking ahead with optimism Tracey added: “I will aim to do Manchester at the new date in October. I will concentrate on the shorter distances for a while, but still get in 10 miles or so on weekend runs as I don't want to lose the stamina I have built up. Also the long runs have become a fixture of my life, which I really enjoy. If we are faced with total lock down and I can't get outside, then I will use the exercise bike in my basement and the stairs. I am determined to maintain my fitness and endurance levels with the view that the enforced postponement of my marathon will make me stronger and faster in the end!”
Keep training, keep safe and keep two metres apart like these folk below!