There’s a gag doing the rounds at the minute. It goes like this: guy is having his eyes tested. What can you see, asks the optometrist? Empty streets, empty shops, empty pubs is the reply… Congratulations, says the optometrist. You have 2020 vision!
And that sort of neatly encapsulates the year we’ve had. Now, if this year has taught us anything, it’s that nobody had any idea how many brilliant fucking epidemiologists and virologists we had hiding in our midsts. I mean, I’m a fairly modest guy, but with those kind of qualifications, I wouldn’t have hid my light under a bushel for so long. Maybe these folks are just hugely humble, but I doubt it. Not if their social media accounts are anything to go by. Though here again, they are modest about their achievements and tend to go by the monicker ‘joxer12855578’ and eschew their doctorates. Anyway. We digress. (Don’t you mean ‘you’ digress? Ed.)
The point is that we have been inundated with many armchair experts since COVID hit. Most have fallen into the ‘it’s only a ‘flu’ brigade, which came with a large helping of something, something, comorbidity, something, something, underlying conditions… they were going to die anyway…). And then there were a lot of anti-maskers to contend with. That’s on top of anti-vaxxers. But at least the smart variety know that the turning of the wheel and the changing of the calendars to 2021 will not solve anything in the short term.
In Ireland, we made a big song and dance about the arrival of the first 10,000 vaccines. And don’t forget, that’s two doses each, over 3 weeks. So really only 5,000. Leixlip’s population alone is over 15,000. It’s going to take a long time to get even key workers done, and the vulnerable in nursing homes. And we need to reach about 70% to get the herd immunity effect in play. (And yes, I can show you my Certificate of Virology from the University of I Listen to Basic Science and Other Shit if you need to see it).
All of which means 2021 could end up looking a lot like 2020. But with compassion fatigue setting in already, I doubt things will be pleasant out there. Certainly not for retail. Pubs have been closed since March. March! In Ireland! That’s just mind-blowing. When the dust finally settles, a lot of places will not be re-opening.
I would like to think we will learn something from this tough lesson, but I fear we will not. What COVID has exposed quite ruthlessly in many countries is how well they are managed from the top down. (And let’s be honest, despite what I have just said above, COVID is nasty, but it’s not the Bubonic Plague). In Ireland, it has told us a lot, if you are willing to listen and learn. For a start, our health service (wonderful and all as it is) operates at near capacity most of the time. Any major health emergency will swamp it. This is why we were so keen (rightly) to flatten the curve. But at the sticky end of the things, it revealed a few uglier truths too: meat plants were apparently ‘vital’ to the running of the economy. The vast bulk of workers in these plants are foreign and many live together in the same houses. They are paid poorly, and their rents are high. They also send as much money home as they can. Needless to say, their work conditions, coupled with their living standards, made them the perfect ‘super spreader’ storm. Something similar happened in our nursing homes, and contributed massively to the death rates amongst the most vulnerable. And when we talk about figures, we have to remember that each one of these stats is someone’s granny or grandad, and is a tragedy. Detention centres were little different. Though the preferred term in Ireland is ‘Direct Provision’. Because it sounds nicer.
Yes, there are many lessons we can learn from this COVID shit-show, but I suspect once the vaccines have been dished out and the economy cranks back into gear again, it will be all guns blazing and happy days. Until the next time we have to pull up the lino and see how rotten the floorboards are underneath…
So that’s the cheery stuff out of the way. How about some running stuff? Well, okay then!
The Marcothon has officially wrapped up for December. Here are the stats:
Total kilometres completed: 234.4
Total runs: 31 (obviously)
Average run distance: 7.5k
Fastest run: 5k in 23:28, 4:41 pace
Slowest run: 5.5k in 37:08, 6:44 pace
Longest run: half marathon
Number of runs over 10k: 7
Thoughts on the Marcothon: well worth the effort. Got me out of the house every day, and it quickly reached the point where running was just something I did. Whilst the aerobic fitness went up, the knees were not so happy. 234k is not a bad total, but I would have done more than this, per month, in the Summer of last year when I was training for the Connemara100. The difference is that I was building in rest days, and I was building a platform for this amount of training beforehand. With the Marcothon, I had had a relatively fallow few months after the canal triathlon adventure, and, let’s be honest, it’s been hard to get too motivated over 2020 what with the virus thing floating about. So, I think if you were planning on doing some decent mileage each month, you should definitely work up to that over a few months, and make sure to give your legs a rest perhaps twice a week. Your mileage may vary applies in every sense here. But you get the gist, I’m sure.
So, we finished up the year in style. Lock Up The Year is my favourite running event. It takes place on the last day of the year, and it’s a rather informal get-together of local runners. You can choose to do a 10k, half or full marathon. It’s all self-supported, and you log your own times. The guy who organises it (Brendan Murphy and crew) lay on a great spread afterwards in the local clubhouse, and you throw a tenner in the pot for as much soup and sandwiches as you can possibly eat. The lock reference is to the locks along the Royal Canal. Hence ‘lock up the year’. Of course, COVID kicked the shit out of all that this year. It was to be another one of those virtual events. I made my own hot chocolate and brought it along in a flask.
It was a cold and early start for myself and Mark. The sun may have been up, but it was nowhere to be seen. There was a heavy frost on the ground, with a promise of snow. We set out from Louisa Bridge and headed towards Maynooth, picking up Gary on the way, who was going to do 10k with us. As we left Maynooth for Kilcock, the snow came down. It wasn’t much but it dusted the towpath, and the canal itself, where the waters had frozen over. Picture-postcard perfect, but it turned any frozen puddles into lethal traps for unwary runners. I will not be surprised to hear a few lost their footing today out running.
The snow petered out as we reached our turn point with just over 10k on the clock, and we headed back towards Maynooth.
Gary left us at Maynooth, and we soldiered on. The conditions underfoot were tricky enough, and we stopped near Pike Bridge to post a warning on the event’s Facebook page. We were probably the first out of the traps this morning, but we were starting to see runners coming awards us, and we were letting them know about the hazards.
The pace was gradually picking up. The rather modest first 10k was completed in just over 58 minutes, which would mean a 2 hour plus half if we didn’t pull up our socks. So pull them up we did. Each subsequent kilometre pretty much got faster and faster, and we pulled into Dodge with 1.58:52. It’s not a fast half, but given the conditions and relatively easy pace at the outset, it was pleasing to duck in under the 2 hour mark.
I don’t have many plans yet for 2021 (though no doubt it has plans for me). I have signed up for a virtual race next month, and I will do another half somewhere, probably along the canal, for charity. And there is the small matter of GaelForce West to consider in Summer. This was the postponed event from last year (last year being 2020, but even though we are still technically in the year as I type, I am confining it to the bin!)
Above, I would like to present perhaps the year’s most useless item. I mean, look; perhaps you are incredibly well-organised and have been looking for this item all your life. Good luck to you. But I saw this the other day in Aldi, in the famous middle aisles (were all the horse blankets and compressors can be found), and it just struck me as bizarre and a perfect note on which to literally wrap up the year. And as I type, I peer out the window only to find that it is now raining heavily and all that beautiful crisp frost and snow has been washed away. So it’s perfect for this… go on. You’re curious!
And so, we finish with Odi. Because, well, just because. Odi is the best boy. He knows this, because I tell him every day 😉
Have a great evening, and hopefully next year will be better for everyone. US Gary, sir, if you are reading this, my very best wishes for a better 2021. I’m late to your wonderful blog, but I’m catching up!