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  • Writer's picture Irina

The Score: LIFE 1 -v- COVID 0

Updated: May 11, 2021

Life 1 -v- Covid 0

That’s how I felt at the running event I took part two weeks ago now. I ran a half marathon in 2:06:36, fastest one to date and for the first time in a very, very, very long time I felt LIFE was winning the game. The first real event after a very long time, hosted many different races: full marathon, 20miler, half marathon, 10k, 5k. Each race starting 15’ apart and taking place in a car racing circuit. I was so nervous that as soon as they announced the half marathon, I gave Doug a quick kiss and ran to take my place. Doug shouted something but I couldn’t hear him. As I made my way to the start line I relaxed enough to notice that I was the 8th person in the queue. Hmm..., everyone in front of me and behind me was very young, very athletic, with matching uniforms, wearing those teeny tiny shorts that pro runners wear. Oops! I was right at the front with the elite athletes. The ones that run a half in 1:20. That’s what Doug was trying to say earlier… I giggled as we set off and took myself to the side of the track, running carefully so they could all overtake me. And they did and it was lovely to see them zoom away!

Eventually, all runners merged into one big race, 3,000 of us running as one, each focused on our own goals, thoughts, struggles, counting our laps, fighting against a very strong, unnecessary and annoying head wind on parts of the circuit and welcoming the parts where the wind was behind us. Round and round we went, and for two hours (six minutes and thirty six seconds) all I could hear was the sound of trainers hitting the road (tap, tap, tap) and the occasional conversations “Hey! You’re doing great!”, “Keep going” as 5kers crossed marathon runners. The word 'Covid' never came up. Even without big crowds to cheer us on, I could feel the magic in the air. I could see the few spectators weren’t wearing masks because we were outdoors. The small piece of paper with pace instructions was slowly disintegrating in my pocket because of the sweat. It was fine, I’d memorised it anyway. I crossed the finish line and burst into tears. I was on team LIFE. And we are winning.

Crossing the finish line

Fast forward to today. It is 6.30am on a Friday morning and I am finally writing! I haven’t done it in two weeks and I have missed it terribly. Why haven’t I written? Without giving it too much thought, I blame “Team Life”. How so? I hear you asking. Well, with some restrictions lifting, our social life is very lively during the weekends, early mornings are always dedicated to exercise, running or weights, a very busy work routine leaves me no time during the day and family and personal time fill in whatever is left. Makes sense, right?

Wrong. That is the easy excuse and yes of course there are only 24 hours in the day as Doug keeps reminding me, but if I am completely honest, it’s not time I am missing so much, it’s focus. The change of pace that I wrote about a few weeks back is the new reality. It’s a fact that things are moving faster and I am upping my pace to keep up but am I in control of the steering wheel? Or are circumstances dictating where I turn my head? I know the answer and I know the consequences. Gradually anxiety levels rise, I feel somewhat frustrated, questioning if I am doing a good job, finishing a days’ hard work without completing the things I set out to finish. Postponing writing my next post to when I have time. All of this is just depleting my energy. I know it will not end well…

Seeing friends after 9 months is worth everything...

So, I stopped it. I did a complete reset and focused my energy rather than letting it dilute to the point I felt I have none left. Once more, I turned to running to save the day. How so? I hear you ask again! The way I approach running these days is quite structured. There are dedicated slots, 3 times a week, early in the morning. I don’t plan running around other things I’ve got on during the day, I rather plan the day, knowing that I have an hour’s running to do between 7-8am roughly. If I have early morning calls, I will go out earlier. When I am out running, I am mindful. In the moment. I run, that’s what I am there to do. My mind may be concentrated on the timer, or I may get lost admiring the river and the swans gliding effortlessly or taking off in the most dramatic way (have you ever seen a swan take off? Exactly like an airplane only a hundred times more beautiful). I set off to run a specific distance, intervals, pace and I do it. I finish it. I feel I’ve accomplished the task and I move on to the next item on the day’s agenda. A very important change I’ve made recently is that I’ve changed the settings on my watch so that nothing other than phone calls comes through while I am running. No texts, no news alerts, no emails. Nothing.

During the last year my relationship with my phone has turned to somewhat of an addiction. Lacking contact and stimuli from the world outside my house, I have been relying on the phone for so many things. A bit like E.T. (remember? E.T. phone home…). I am not even sure why we call them phones anymore. They are devices really with lots of functionalities, one of them is the phone. Probably the one that gets used the least. And while I am grateful to the technology and what my phone can do for me, it is undeniably a major de-focuser! Even when on silent, I’ve developed this sixth sense to know when the screen blinks to alert me that something has come through. A whatsapp? Who could it be? An iMessage? That’s most likely my mum. Messenger? What is Siri saying? A Facebook notification? An Instagram post? A Linkedin update? Did someone famous die? Did I get a work email? Or a personal Gmail? Is there a Covid announcement? Did someone complete a run on Strava? Is Amazon delivering my order today? Is Tesco saying it’s time to collect my shopping? Whose birthday is it? Is EasyJet cancelling my flights? Is someone from work sending me a message on Slack? Do I have a zoom call coming up? Oh shut up Alexa! Is it time to breathe? Drink water? Move? Live?

Staying focused in this new reality of constant communication and interaction with multiple sources is a whole new ball game and if I want to make it out sane and safe, I need to educate myself quickly. The same way I isolate myself from my phone while running, works just as well for the rest of the day, if I stick to it. Big IF… especially at times when work and non-work life are blending and blurring into one and people from both worlds reach out in so many different ways. I find setting time aside for an activity and sticking with it until I am done is my best shot to remain focused. If phones are part of this new reality, then time to sort out phone notifications and be up to date with social media must be allocated during the day, but it needs to be on my terms, not dictated by the blinking screen.

Focus by definition, means reducing the scope of things I am doing to get one important thing done. Finish it. Then move to the next one. When I succeed, I end the day feeling so much better and relaxed and my brain has all the little boxes ticked and is in a happy place. It works for running, it works for working, it works for living and achieving. I love being back on Team Life and I will focus to find my best possible self in this new world.

A lovely walk and a great photo! We'll need to step up and support Doug in the coming weeks.

PS. The stakes will be even higher after next week when Doug has his operation and is on crutches for six weeks! Means I will need to fit the dog walks he usually does, all the driving that needs to be done and probably other things we will discover along the way. Staying focused will be more important than ever!!

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Sep 12, 2021

Brilliant blog! There’s a good book waiting to get out! Very involving..


Jun 21, 2021

After crying at one post I am now smiling at this one “shut up Alexa” 🤣. I am also reading your posts when I should be focussed on work… quite the opposite of your advice!? X


May 09, 2021

I love this. ‘Team Life’ is definitely beginning to come back and take over the somewhat sedate pace we’ve all been used to recently. And it’s a little strange getting to grips with it again. I’m intrigued to see what the new normal will end up looking like.


May 08, 2021

focus, reset ,and keep the little boxes happy


May 08, 2021

We are living a multi-tasking, multi-stimulating anxious life and staying focused is a hard thing to do. Nonetheless you’re a determined, strong woman and lately a focused runner. You’re an inspiration!!

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