Running in the time of lockdown: scenery counts - just ask the dog

Even under the horrid time limits, the open road beats running in the driveway any day

17 May 2020 - 00:00 By
Young Fred, the dog, was just as ecstatic as his owner to hit the open road again in lockdown level four.
Young Fred, the dog, was just as ecstatic as his owner to hit the open road again in lockdown level four.
Image: 123RF/Anastasiia Tarasiuk

Six weeks of relentless pounding of my very own driveway (I had to save the grass) have resulted in some running-related realisations. Seems all my running feats are entirely predicated on three things - coffee, scenery and camaraderie.

Coffee is self-explanatory. The coffee shop is the goal of every run. The prize, caffeine.

Scenery, it now transpires, is probably the main reason I have ever completed a marathon. I've run a few - none of them in Gauteng, which sadly can be hard on the eye. The distraction supplied by, say, Paris, Dublin or Athens is probably directly proportional to my ability to complete the marathon.

The scenery must change prettily enough to sustain my interest over the long term - as in several hours of running.

Camaraderie among runners is well documented. We are natural bolsterers of spirits. Everyone greets on the road and encourages their fellow runners, knowing the pain and joy of this endeavour intimately creates a natural warmth among practitioners.

And now that I think of it, the crowds of cheering bystanders during races also really help. You feel special even as one among 30,000. Look at me - I am running, yes thank you, thank you and yes I will have the red wine (in Paris), jellies (in Dublin) and the olive branches (in Athens). Offerings handed out indiscriminately by the adoring crowds gathered to cheer you on, in your personal quest to run. It's quite wonderful really.

So naturally the promise of leaving my driveway (which was wearing my mental resilience thin, very thin) was freighted with possibility. Coffee, scenery and general approbation for having had the most excellent idea of going for a run was on the immediate horizon. So many happy things within my grasp.

Also my dog, young Fred, had become a dangerous impediment to the sanctity of my limbs. The creature developed a game in week two of lockdown that involved a steady, stealthy and unrelenting attack on my shoelaces as I made my way around the driveway. Dodging Fred and his prehensile jaw became my thing. The only thing. Until even he lost the capacity to view the shoelaces as worthy adversaries and took to lying down in the middle of the driveway - broken by the monotony but still dangerous as he was overtaken by these feelings of hopelessness quite suddenly, mid stride, and I could not predict when this existential malaise would strike and I would have to suddenly leap over him to avoid wiping out.

So you can imagine how Fred and I took to the roads on that happy Friday morning last week. My soul opened to the universe in a flurry of joy and delight. I won't lie, it felt positively epic. Outside my gate, prams, dogs, humans - all bent on the great outdoors.

The police van did a slow drive-by - the kind that chills the heart

Fred was overcome by the smells. Poop like never before - he developed a dangerous new stratagem for breaking my ankles: the sudden grinding sniff stop. Coupled with lunging towards unfamiliar dogs emerging from their homes for the first time.

The caffeine queue was chaos - people couldn't help it, blinking like fledglings in the new blinding sunlight. Effusive greetings, ill-advised hoverings for actual conversations, group walks - social warming in all its glory. The police van did a slow drive-by - the kind that chills the heart - and promptly dispersed the crowd.

A few weeks in and the masks are presenting weird behaviours of their own. People use them to avoid eye contact, and greeting among runners is on a steep downward trajectory. Worse, though, is the lecturing. If you dare remove the mask whilst running because your head is about to explode, beware. Some supercilious runner with much shallower lung capacity will take it upon themselves to shame you.

And don't make the mistake of miscalculating and still be out on the road a minute or two after 9am - some officious lady in her sports utility vehicle will hoot maniacally as she points at her watch. Dangerous times, I tell you. But the open road beats the driveway any day. The scenery is spectacular, the coffee sublime and nobody is putting Fred in the driveway again.