The Loop

An hour. That’s all we are allowed outside. One hour and within one kilometre of home.

Now, for someone who thrives and earns their living through obsessive over exercising, confinement is quite a traumatic process to go through.

On a normal day I cover between 20km and 40km on my two feet, sandwiched between dog walks and being out with the kids. I regularly run over all our local mountains, I live for the satisfaction of working up a hill to take a moment to catch my breath and the vista then hurtle back down to get on with my day. I normally have no constraints on my time or the distance covered, apart from how much energy I have in my legs that day. But this is suddenly removed. My work, my play, stripped away. All I have left is this short loop. One hour, one kilometre.

I feel panic rise through my chest as we pass through the early days of confinement. Can I do this? Can I continue to achieve the fitness required to do my job as well as look after my family and maintain the restrictions? And an almost louder emotion… do I even want to? It’s an internal battle that rages daily within me; finding the motivation to get out with no mountain view to be gained or 100kms to be run. I quickly realise I need and must find a new motivation, and more importantly, a new peace with this hand that has been dealt to us. Days tick by. Up and down I go, round and round. One hour, one kilometre. Dare we step outside this zone? Paperwork must be carried at all times, fines are given and every day on Facebook there are stories of altercations with gendarmes. Clearly some people are bending the rules, clearly some of the rules aren’t clear.

“I live for the satisfaction of working up a hill to take a moment to catch my breath and the vista then hurtle back down to get on with my day.”

No one likes them. But they do work and it is fair. Everyone has to do the same irrespective of where they live, how old they are, what they do. One hour, one kilometre.

To us locals, the fact we can see the mountains but can’t get to them is really hard. The mountains are where we feel most comfortabl and it’s where life and living is earned. Not having access to our dearest friend makes life unbearable for many and there’s a genuine fear that even though we live in the most beautiful place, many still feel terribly isolated and alone.

I am continuously amazed that even though many risk-takers and adrenaline junkies populate our valley, we turned into real law abiding citizens during confinement. Craving the mountains and a return to normality, we’d do anything to conform. And there’s a real sense of community, even though we cant see each other. The strong bond of trust that you need to live in this environment is still shining through, even though we are safely tucked up at home.

In the hardest of races, or during the longest of training blocks, I have to find a way to cope, both mentally and physically. One hour, one kilometre. I must find a way to cope with this confinement. To find a different breathing space in my window of freedom.

For me, running is like the best friend who never leaves my side. The one who, most of the time I cant get enough of, who I tell everything to, who has seen my best and my very worst sides. And here in this hour, on my small piece of track, we enter a new era. I slow down. I begin to listen to her rather than dictate her voice. I really notice the change of seasons; every bulb, every patch of melting snow that brings fresh greenery. As I turn down the podcasts that I’ve have been using to block out the tedium, I hear spring bird song, the river rushing as snow is melting, sometimes so loud it blocks out my breath, my voice. I love the noise. I stop. I never stop.

Day after day I run the loop. One hour, one kilometre. Up and down, up and down. I see the same people every day. We become friends. In my head they all have nicknames. Days go past, I soften to the loop. I stop fighting the restriction and just let it flow… I’m practising turning my mind off and really just being.

I hadn’t realised how much I don’t stop. How much I love the mountains without ever listening to them. I just come to conquer them; they’re an obstacle. Now they become something more. I see them living and breathing. Something real. A comfort. Whatever we are going through, they continue to plough through into the next season. On my loop, the snow melts. The crocuses arrive. My footfalls stop crunching though snow and I start sliding and squishing through mud, the first time my trainers have been dirty for months. We are outside without gloves, hats, the fresh spring sun feels so good on winter skin. I am learning to my love loop.

“For me, running is like the best friend who never leaves my side. ”

As news around the world remains full of doom and gloom, my loop, one hour, one kilometre, which once felt so restrictive and pointless, is now my sanctuary. I know every step, every root, every rock. Here I am safe. Here I can be as quiet or loud as I want to be. Here I feel the mountains wrap me in their protective arms. Their continuous beat against the seasons, their relentless quest to take whatever the elements throw at them, overriding everything else. They are the strongest and most consistent part of my life. This hour, this kilometre, has taught me so much. It has taught me to be. It’s shown me that the mountains are indeed always right, they know best. They continue to prepare for the next season, always the same, always putting even our biggest worries into perspective. They are the Mother to our fears.

Thank you for my loop, my one hour, my one kilometre, dear mountains. Thank you for teaching me humility and graciousness, thank you for keeping me sane when all around me was filled with turmoil, disappointment and anxiety. Thank you for showing me who I really was, why I really live here and what was important to me in life. Thank you for your patience and kind presence and most of all thank you for not leaving me. Coming out of confinement, even though I do not feel as physically fit as I would’ve liked, mentally I feel like a different person. My heart beats stronger than ever to find my limits and push my boundaries. I feel more at peace with that internal voice, which before told me I was never enough. I am, I am me and I am content.

Never underestimate the power of the hour, the kilometer and the loop.

The Loop
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