Keeping motivation during the pandemic

Chris Frost is a jog leader at Jog Derbyshire group Jog Riddings. Having only been up and running for a few months before the UK entered its first lockdown, he tells his story of how the past year has been – both for him personally and for the jog group.

A different focus

This year, for me, has been completely different. I normally do 15-20 races a year and I’ve always got a goal and a focus. So, for that to be pulled from under me has changed things. It’s been more about just keeping things ticking over, trying to keep as fit as I can but not actually aiming for anything.

I’ve always been a lone wolf runner. I do love running with mates but I’ve always done my own training as we’re all different paces and run at different times. So, for me, running on my own has not really bothered me. But rather than specific sessions it’s been, oh I’m just going to go out and have a pop for half an hour.

I’ve kept myself in check with a couple of virtual races. I did the virtual Derby 10k and London Marathon. I did a target of 1,000 miles for the year. I’ve always got something to focus on the best I can. But when it comes to doing the distance, like the virtual London Marathon, I wasn’t bothered about my time. Because it’s not the same as being in front of 40,000 people.

Embracing time with my family

My motivation has always been to keep me healthy. When they said you can only go out once a day for exercise, I’d have the kids waiting at the door, do my run, pick them up and go for a walk so it was all one continuous thing. I was still incorporating my running into day-to-day life.

My daughter loves running. She started with junior parkrun. Then just before the first lockdown she came and did the full Brierley Forest parkrun with me. We were laughing and chatting the whole way round. After that she said, ‘I want to do that every week’, but the week after it closed. She likes running round the local woods so I get my trail runners on and we go running round the woods, weaving and ducking and diving. That’s what I like. She just likes running. She’s not bothered about pace or time or distance, she’s just going out and having some alone time with me from the other kids.

How I swapped football for running

I started running 10 years ago. I’d been playing football for years when I signed up for a charity running event. It was to run two miles a day, every day for 125 days. The first few days I was like, why can’t I run, I’m used to running round on a football pitch for 90 minutes. Then I realised it’s because it’s stop/start. So, it took me a good couple of weeks to get into it. To start with I hated it. It was December, it was cold, it was snowing. I didn’t have the right trainers. I was wearing my football tops and stuff to start with.

Then when I got into it I booked Derby 10k for when I finished and once I’d done that first race I was hooked. How busy it was, seeing people I know and mates and family at the end was amazing. Then I just stopped playing football and started running properly. I started training for my first half, then focusing on times for 5k and 10k. Then about four years ago I started marathons and when you get to that level you sort of have to stay at that level.

Passing on my passion to others

Now I want other people to get involved, I want other people to run. That’s why I did my coaching course. When I was a manager at Real Buzz in Derby we’d close the store at six and go and do a 5k round the block. You’d keep all your kit there and it worked quite well. When the store closed I continued going but driving to Derby became too much and someone else took over as leader.

Riddings is a quarter of a mile down the road from me so I started up Jog Riddings in September 2019. The couch to 5k sessions were aimed at the mums and dads from the kids’ school because it goes from the carpark where we pick the kids up from. There’s been about 70 people gone through a couch to 5k so far.

The difficulties of the past year

It’s been difficult doing them through the lockdowns. I did two virtual ones but you can’t really motivate people. If you’re not there telling them to run for 30 seconds it’s hard for somebody who’s just starting to get out there. I’ve adapted it, kept in touch with them and tried to keep them going and got a WhatsApp group. The ones who had been in a group pre-lockdown couldn’t see each other and haven’t got that confidence to go running on their own. A lot of them haven’t got runners in the family to go with.

In August when we were allowed to meet six people I set up time slots. It ended up with some of them only having two people. But even if two people turn up those two people might move on to doing 10ks or half marathons and get into running so it doesn’t bother me because I run with them. I don’t want to message to cancel saying sorry there’s only two of you. It might get them out of a depression, it might get them fit, it might reverse type 2 diabetes. It might be that’s the foot in the door they need to start running so it doesn’t matter how many are doing it.

Nervousness over a return to ‘normal’

With the last couch to 5k we went into the second lockdown as it was about to finish so the actual final run never happened. You had to do it on your own, you weren’t allowed to run without anyone else.

There’s apprehension now from a lot of people because of what happened last time. As we come out of the third lockdown I still think it’s a little bit too early to start up again. I’ve left it ambiguous over a start date because I want to see how it goes over the next few weeks. I don’t want to start drumming up excitement and support for it to be squashed again.

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