Three weeks ago, blissfully unaware of oncoming COVID-19 restrictions and the danger of over 100 people in a single location, I started training. Running (away from other people) has become a more valuable skill than I then realized. Physical distancing works. Since then, I’ve been opening my laptop, checking my emails, waiting for the notification that, like a third-rate YouTuber, the Rotorua Half Marathon has been CANCELLED. The email has yet to come.
Fortunately for me, I’ve told the entire university of my fitness plans. So, coronavirus or no coronavirus, I will run this race. Twenty-one kilometres alone in the bush, or down suburban roads, in circles around Albert Park (17 and a ¼ circles to make it to 21km, I did the math). Hell, I might even run the race route in Rotorua – just without the finish line.
Last week, I went home to visit my family and came back with a pharmaceutical company in my backpack. It’s easy for me to run when home, something about the familiarity of the streets, or the knowledge that a family friend could drive by any time and damn-it-if-they’ll-catch-me-walking. But I think it’s the views. Running over the peninsula’s ridge with water on either side. It’s different from running in the city. I feel like I’m going somewhere.
Don’t get me wrong, running is still hard as hell, yet the reward becomes more than an endorphin rush or a feeling of productivity – it’s something as simple as Being Outside. If university turns virtual and we all flee the crowded city, at least I know I have those views to return to.
I was home when I finally smashed my 5km mark and made it to a whopping 8km. According to online training manuals, I should be at the 10km point, but I’ll take what I can get. What does the internet know, right?
I stopped halfway through, at the top of a hill overlooking Scandrett’s Bay. That way I could disguise my break as a romantic moment – looking to the open ocean, the New York Times Fiction Podcast speaking profound one-liners into my ears, and me – puffing, red-faced, sticky with sweat.
I felt good on that run. Like, I actually felt good about my body, about my weight. My weight has not changed, by the way. I think I may have even put on a kilo. But blood pumping, and high on the self-satisfaction of achievement, I felt changed.
Objectively, I know I looked exactly the same as the day before. Maybe I looked worse. Sweat curled my fringe outward, like two devil horns on my head. Yet running seems to give me a feeling of control over my body. Now, I’m no philosophy student, but Plato totally screwed us over with his whole “mind over body” bullshit. It’s not my body that running has changed; it’s my mind, my mental health, my perception of self as well as my physical self.
I’m coming to believe that, with gyms closing, and recreation centres shutting their doors, fitness now is more important than ever – for mental health as much as for physical health. Just because things are shutting down doesn’t mean we should be. Yes, follow the government’s safety guidelines. Be careful. Be safe. But even if (when) my race gets cancelled, I’m going to keep running.
TLDR: Fuck Platonic Idealism, wash your hands, and go for a run. Promise it’ll be worth it.