TRC in Lockdown 2020

TRC in 2020: The Challenges of Lockdown!

John Manning

On our website, we describe ourselves as a “small, friendly and social running club”. The pandemic of 2020 tested that description and I think it’s fair to say we came through with flying colours. This is an account of how the club maintained its friendliness and sociability despite not being able to meet for most of the 2020.

Our final Wednesday night run was in the middle of March, and none of us knew then that it would be August until club runs would resume, albeit in an altered state.

Throughout the glorious Spring weather, lockdown rules confined us to exercising alone. However, nothing could prevent those serendipitous encounters when out on the trails and roads. Some routes became very busy with walkers and runners, leading to impromptu chats and much better social niceties – I’ve never heard so many cheery “Good mornings” and “Good afternoons” from complete strangers. We all developed the “Covid swerve” to ensure passing other pedestrians at a social distance.

Soon we were supporting and encouraging each other by shout-outs on social media – “great to see X round the reservoirs today”. Members were inventive in naming their Strava runs, often with a musical theme, and posting impressive photos. “That” tree on top of Pitstone Hill (the windblown hawthorn) became a star.

Rachel Wray entertained us by inventing the TRC Lockdown Bingo Challenge with the pointless aim of completing as many of the 28 challenges as possible whilst out on a run. ‘Find a windmill’ was popular amongst the Ivinghoe crew and ‘Plod round slowly’ was popular with almost everyone. I particularly enjoyed ‘Sing loud enough for someone to hear’ and ‘Wear a disguise’ when I stood on Pitstone Hill on VE Day, wearing a Spiderman mask and singing We’ll Meet Again! Some people are still traumatised by the performance.

The pace groups enjoyed friendly competition with the weekly, point-scoring challenge developed by Nigel Kippax which ran for 3 months during the first lockdown. The challenge was to combine pace, distance, elevation and Strava segments to score the most points. And we all know what points mean…

Nigel also planned not one but two half marathon routes. The Chiltern Half started at the Coombe Hill monument and took us to less familiar routes towards Chequers and out to the Hampdens. The Ashridge Half was more familiar starting at Bridgewater Monument and covering Aldbury Nowers and Ivinghoe Beacon. Many club members enjoyed the beautiful Chiltern scenery during the warm summer months and Rennie Grove Hospice benefitted from donations made.

Trevor Lark was next up with the TRC Virtual Relay. Who would have thought that we could pass a relay baton without ever meeting anyone? Whilst the rules were slightly complicated, requiring close reading of an OS map and the ability to take a selfie, the basic aim was to move the virtual baton from one grid square to another – simples! Over four stages, we zigzagged between Cheddington, Marsworth, Berkhamsted. Aldbury, Wendover Woods and Drayton Beauchamp.

Andy Evans probably posted the most puzzling clue of a shipping container secreted in full sight in the middle of Tring. In all, 20 members took part over a couple of months.

Simon Barnett was due to attempt the Scottish Ramsay Round in May but events put paid to that. As a substitute, Simon founded our very own local ‘round’ and named it the Incombe Hole Challenge. Starting at two in the morning, he ran up and down the steepest (49 percent) slope in Incombe Hole for 10 hours! That’s 5,500 metres (18,000ft) of climb. He then threw down the gauntlet to club members to emulate the feat and, amazingly, several tried it, albeit that some opted for the 100 Minute Challenge, i.e. complete as many ascents as possible in 100 minutes. You know who you are.

In June and July, Ross Langley’s Score Course challenge was equally demanding. Ross mapped out one hundred checkpoints with the more distant attracting the highest points. Starting and finishing at Tring Park cricket club, the objective was to collect as many points within the allotted time (I, 2, 4 and 8 hours). Points were deducted for exceeding the time limit. As Ross said, “It was interesting to see the various routes and checkpoint combinations with people venturing as far as Great Missenden, Dunstable Downs and Crafton to snaffle the highest values”.

Tring parkrun was suspended along with all the other parkruns worldwide but TRC members made a virtue of virtual parkruns on Saturday mornings. The Cheddington massive was prominent, a groove was worn on a route round Marsworth and Pitstone Windmill (not)parkrun was perhaps the most popular of all, of course in a socially-distanced fashion.

At the start of August, club runs resumed under the “Rule of Six”. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. To avoid pace groups assembling together, run leaders devised new routes often starting from a location away from Tring – Pitstone Hill, Cholesbury, Berkhamsted, Wendover
Woods and Ashridge. We enjoyed balmy, summer evenings exploring territory we wouldn’t be able to reach on a normal Wednesday night starting from the cricket club. How we embraced the new routines of pre-run briefings (“Don’t stand too close to me”) and the vaguely ceremonial sharing of hand gel not to mention the taking of the Track and Trace register.

As summer changed to autumn and the nights grew dark, we entered the second lockdown for the month of November. Released for December, groups of six gathered again to wade through copious volumes of mud. Most pace groups also took a Wednesday night trip to the Church Lane Christmas lights in Pitstone before the shutters fell once more. To get us through to the end of the year, Peter Loose encouraged us to complete #12runsofxmas (and to donate to Rennie Grove).

And now here we are in the new year. Hertfordshire is in Tier 4 meaning we can’t meet more than one other outside so club runs are off for now. However, we remain a friendly and social running club. Weekly challenges continue, Strava, Facebook Googlemail and the club’s weekly newsletter will keep us up to speed and those chance meetings of fellow club members out on the trails and roads will continue to nourish and encourage us to greater things in 2021.