Antony Scott, President, Founder and Head Coach of Marin County Track Club (MCTC), asked me some questions about running through the pandemic. The picture was taken by my wife Shamala.
Describe your training through Covid-19 and the main challenges
Going into lockdown I was coming out of injury. As my physical therapist (PT) James Lynch said in February “you’ve got a whole lot of issues”. And for most of 2019 I’d gone from one ‘issue’ to another and raced just twice. As lockdown loomed I was also in the final phase of preparations for the inaugural AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championship race that was due to be held as part of the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon in late April 2020. At 54, oldest in age group (AG), and ‘not firing on all cylinders’ I was glad to see the race deferred to 2021 when I’ll be 55 and so ‘young’ for my M55-59 age group.
So these past 6 months my focus has switched from scrambling to get ready for a spring marathon to simply maintaining base fitness and using running as an anchor of normality during a crazy time, a way to get away from the madness. I enjoy running with others, especially long easy ones where we debate war and peace, as well as competition which gives me targets to shoot at. The main challenge was adjusting to running solo for months on end with practically no competition. I’ve stuck to Coach Troopy’s weekly schedules.
With no access to my PT who I’d been seeing regularly just before lockdown I’ve resorted to DIY TLC, largely band work inspired by Stephanie Bruce on her YouTube channel.
How long were you not able to train in your usual group?
I live in Peekskill, 40 miles north of New York City, work remotely and usually travel a lot to and from and within Europe. So the pandemic did not totally upend my routine. It was just the trips to Europe for 1-3 weeks a time every other month that fell by the wayside. My last group run was in Central Park on 15 March 2020. At the end we said our goodbyes and their was an air of inevitability – that we would not be doing another group run for some months. And so it proved.
I’ve run just 3 times with one other person in 5 months. My sojourns to Europe, where I typically run alone but get to run in a variety of places, have ended – for now. I’ve maintained weekly volume in the low 60s, built around 2 workouts, a long weekend run and a mid-week semi-long (see log here). I’ve spent more time, usually recovery runs, on local trails, to avoid other people and get other to parts other runs do not reach.
What has been your mindset amidst the global pandemic (has it affected you negatively or have you remain in positive spirit)?
I think like most runners I know it’s ebbed and flowed. One week I feel lousy and demotivated with no mojo. The next, possibly triggered by a better than expected workout, I snap back and regain the mojo. Right now I have it, after recently running a 2 mile time trial in 10:20 and a 17 mile run @ 6:25 pace, but by the time you read this I may not. Importantly no matter how demotivated I’ve felt I’ve talked myself into getting out and getting it done, no matter how mediocre the Strava data looks.
You were scheduled to compete in some key races over the spring and summer. Could you tell us a little about that?
Well as I mentioned previously the cancellation of the 2020 London Marathon and World Masters Athletics (WMA) Champs 2020, originally planned for August in Toronto, has forced me to focus on 2021. And in 2021 I’m 55, a spring chicken for the M55-59 age group. So my sights are now firmly set on making hay at the London Marathon on October 3, 2021 and the WMA 2021 tentatively planned for next summer in Finland.
While I miss competing I quickly adjusted to train solo only mode. But then in May virtual races, essentially self-timed time trials, became flavor of the month. Initially I could not see what all the fuss and fanfare was about. However, my UK based brother Stephen peaked my interest and convinced me to run for my UK club Kettering Town Harriers in the UK National Masters Virtual 5K Relay. I scoped out a flat course and on one hot and humid morning ran 16:47, good for 8th M50-54. Virtual races can never beat the real thing, as they are just a time trial, but it was good to compete with others in some way. I rarely get to run ‘in the flesh’ British Championship races but being virtual meant I could do it anywhere, anytime over a 7 day period.
With no races on the calendar, how have you been able to stay focused (what targets/ goals have you set)?
My focus is now on 2021 when I will be 55. I have no plans for 2020. While the WMA in Finland in August 2021 and the London Marathon in October 2021 are way off they’re enough to ensure I don’t lose interest and come off the rails. In Finland I have in mind a medal in the half marathon to go with the silver I got in WMA 2018 – I’ll need me to run around 1:14. And in London, assuming its also the AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championship I hope to be top 3 in the AG. To help stay motivated I’m keeping a close eye on my main rivals on Strava.
Has the pandemic cloud provided any silver linings for you?
Yes, many. First, as I explained previously was not ready be competitive as a 54 year old in London and Toronto. I am now able to focus on 2021 when I’m 55, youngest in the age group. Second, lockdown has encouraged me to explore my local neighborhood, especially the trails, and I’ve discovered to great new places to run as a result. Third, my wife Sham and I did a staycation in early August in Ithaca, gateway to the Finger Lakes, where I got some great mileage in on these rail trails like this one.
Fourth, thanks to Strava I have gained some new running mates – in particular, Tram Cranley (Bethesda MD), Sam Lagasse (Ithaca) and Frank Filiciotto (Peekskill) – and formed Peekskill Community Runners. Fifth, I’m not flying regularly to Europe so the old body, especially the glutes and hips, is not complaining as much. Sixth, I’ve had some extra time to invest in TLC and for the first time since late 2018 I’ve been injury free for more than 3 months. And finally, I have some time to write this article.