I’m sorry it’s been so long everyone. I hope you’re all OK and keeping safe. The end of 2020 is nigh, and thank goodness we’re about to put it behind us. I’m honestly not sure how else to sum up what has been a pretty terrible year all round from a health perspective for society in general, and it’s been hard to avoid the general negativity that’s been doing the rounds for seemingly forever now.

This is my first new blog post for a while, and serves as a wrap up of 2020, which but for one or two things would have served to be a complete personal annus horribilis. Alas, it wasn’t a complete shambles, as I finally got to enjoy my beloved Leeds United win promotion to the Premier League (and ensure everyone on my street knew it!) but I can’t claim that as a personal achievement, and indeed, the one shining beacon of accomplishment feels so long ago its hard to believe right now that there was a time before this pandemic took hold.

Even if I had been able to race all year, the 4th place finish at the Sir Titus Trot Marathon in Saltaire, and with it, smashing my long term goal of a sub-3 hour marathon (2:59:45). It is the crowning glory of arguably the halcyon period of my running journey – a run from late August 2019 to January 2020 smashing PBs across 5K, 10K and marathon – having finally cracked the right strategy to run the whole of a marathon and not succumb to cramp – the payoff from a spontaneous entry into a January marathon, having trained sufficiently for 12 weeks to get to that point, is something that no one, nor any thing, even eventual old age, will take from me. Quite simply, the defining race of my life to date.

2020, since lockdown came in full scale in March, and then since working from home from April, has been pretty much a bust as far as running goes. I took a break for what seemed like mild plantar fasciitis for about a month. I resumed to about one run per week, each time with a recurrence of mild symptoms. It then seemed to ease completely, and I managed to build up to around two runs per week, culminating in a trail run on July 10, which was to be my final run of the year. My plantar fasciitis suddenly seemed to become a little more established, and I found myself in a rut.

Groundhog day set in from there, a malaise which set in as a result of feeling unable to do any running, working the 9 to 5 from home, and the stresses that brings, unable to go to the gym, and no real time in any day to really focus on any alternative form of exercise save for some Joe Wicks classes and other exercise videos found on YouTube. My year in Strava turned out to show a relatively paltry 77 activities over the course of the year, of which around a third of those were walking activities. A good number of those being walks with my kids, done as a means to get them outdoors to see Mother Nature, and to maintain a relative level of sanity.

And it partly explains why I’ve been remiss to write much at all over the last seven or eight months. There’s only so much I can write constantly about plantar fasciitis, and it is paltry to overcomplain about it given a much more serious problem is affecting people all around the world. And we are not out of the woods yet. I feel lucky that is has not affected anyone in my family, and my family has had to take two tests for the virus, thankfully returning back a negative result each time.

The one remaining shining beacon of my year was to finally walk a full stage of the Pennine Way, though arguably I could have walked a bit further but I digress. August Bank Holiday, August 31st – I had a day of doing anything by myself. Having seen my initial attempt to walk Stage 3 – from Standedge to Hebden Bridge – washed away by torrential rain – I elected to wait for the weather to improve, and head out on a kinder day to the next stage, from Hebden Bridge to Ponden, a few miles outside of Keighley. I believe the official guide suggests walking all the way to Colden, but I was already overstretching myself by walking to the start from Hebden Bridge railway station, a good near couple of miles itself.

It turned out to be a lovely day for walking, though not without the minor hitch of one of my environmentally friendly flasks leaking through my bag, leaving me with only one bottle of water plus my lunch supplies, for the day’s walking. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic experience. Early on in the walk, I even experienced complete, total silence. I only maintained it for a couple of seconds, but for those couple of seconds, no footsteps, no traffic, no kids, no nearby animals or insects, no farm machines, absolutely nothing. Just pure, clean stillness. It was truly a moment to feel alive at that moment.

I did get to a small shop en route which turned out to be the lifesaver I needed, as far as the large bottle of water, crisps and parkin I purchased turned out to be. It kept be going across the next 10 miles, which would take in a number of highlights – crossing the plain of Standing Stone Hill, and the majesty of the natural landscape at Blake Dean – the purity of the reservoirs at Walshaw Dean, and the long drag uphill en route to Top Withens, the reward for a hard day of walking. It was great to see the place where the legend of the Bronte sisters and Wuthering Heights began, a place to sit down as other walkers milled around marvelling a piece of historic architecture absolutely synonymous with this part of the country.

Like most of 2020 though, this has been the year where personally, so much has been taken away. It is currently approaching six months since my last run, and I now need to step up and address it. It’s doubtful at this stage whether I’ll run the Rock n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon whether due to injury or due to COVID-19 restrictions. My main aim has to be to get back into consistent exercise, and with that, to get back into running. But much will be determined by whether my heel has recovered enough in that time to not become a daily nuisance. It seems like I might be getting back to a stage of going out for a run. Even then, it will be small steps at a time. Hopefully, I will get to walk a bit more of the Pennine Way too.

With any luck, the torrent of COVID-19 cases and deaths will begin to slow down as the vaccines developed to combat the pandemic is rolled out, and life can return to some level of how we knew it before. And perhaps with some lessons for humanity as a whole. And from there, we can hope for new beginnings, and better times ahead,

The featured image at the top is by Andrey Metalev. Check out his images here @metelevan over at Unsplash.com