Adapting to the new normal

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How our athletes are approaching running and life

Editor's Note: Like all Australians, we're putting safety first and practicing social distancing. None of the images you see throughout this feature were captured during periods of recommended isolation.

We all know how hard training for a half marathon can be. Even with a great coach, a solid program, and all the tools at your fingertips, sometimes life just gets in the way - which is exactly what has happened to all of us recently, with the Coronavirus pandemic having a major impact on events and our way of life around the world.

The Line; our half marathon project with Nike Australia, was created on the premise of giving amaetur athletes the tools they needed to reach their full potential, while staying injury free and healthy.

However in the last two weeks we’ve seen virtually all races and non-essential events around the world be postponed or cancelled, creating a ‘what now?’ moment for runners everywhere. And while we recognise that racing isn’t the most important thing for our running community right now, having an outlet that brings us joy and provides continuity could be more important than ever.

We also understand that social distancing can’t become social disconnection, and this is why our athletes have been staying connected to their peers and coaches digitally. For Carlie Skerry, this has also helped to keep her accountable to her goals.

“At a time when the world feels a little strange & we suddenly can't run alongside each other, checking in online has helped reiterate a sense of motivation & belonging that a shared journey provides. Through texts & apps we can keep moving alone, together.”

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It’s easy to get caught up in the postponement of a race; the idea that the sacrifice and the training is ‘wasted’. But for Nike Running Coach Lydia O’Donnell, who had her own World Half Marathon Championships postponed just weeks ago, running is about so much more than standing on the start line.

“When the goal race is taken away we have to look elsewhere to find that motivation. It can be tough, but it can teach us so much about ourselves and the underlying purpose of why we run. It strips the sport back to its purest form.”

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Training for races like half marathons conditions athletes to be constantly building, week by week. Each workout completed is another brick in the wall, and each week is slightly more challenging than the last. And when all of a sudden there’s no longer that race goal to train for, the temptation for some athletes is to keep stacking bricks until race day comes, believing that if say, 10 weeks of a program is good, 20 weeks must be better.

According to Nike Running Coach Dave Ridley, there’s an opportunity here to build a foundation that will pay off when race dates come back around.

“We’re pulling back the intensity and speed work right now, and focusing on building a big base to leverage in the coming months.

I believe this is a glass half full type situation - it’s an opportunity for all runners to play the long game and reap the rewards of doing so."

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So, if you find yourself with your goals on hold, and without your regular training partners to run with, what can you do?

Coach Lydia, who used the postponement of her race to head for the mountains and run some trails, offers “Use this time to build a new relationship with running. One that doesn’t rely on anyone or anything. If you can find the motivation to take hold of the purpose behind why you run when racing starts back you’ll actually find it so much easier to work toward your goals.”

Everyone starts, and keeps running, for different reasons. Some are motivated by achieving race goals, or the social side, and for some athletes running has always been about the way it makes us feel - physically and mentally. Mel Smith is using her time on the run to appreciate what she still has.

“Training has always been the destination for me, so not much as changed in that respect. When I look around the world at the moment, I feel so grateful that I am still able to get outside and do what I love.”

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For now at least, government advice in Australia is to continue exercising; just not in gyms (which are closed in some states) and not in groups. And while you might find the streets a little quieter, and you might miss the conversations - which are so good at distracting you from how far you’ve ran - there are other options.

If music’s your thing, TEMPO has just launched its own Spotify channel, with playlists from running personalities around the world. But if you’re really looking to take your run to the next level, check out the audio guided runs on the Nike Run Club app, where you can get on-the-run coaching advice and insights from Nike coaches and athletes, and even do guided runs with Headspace.

One thing we’ve seen already over the last couple of weeks - you can’t stop running.

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