How does a running addict survive Covid-19 in France?

Bad enough not to be able to run, when you’ve been on a running streak for five years. Here, Julie Carter, tells us how she is coping with the restrictions lockdown in France.

As told to Saffi Leigh.

Julie, racing in France

How does a run addict survive COVID-19??

My name is Julie, and I’m an addict…

A running addict.

If someone had approached me and told me that I had an addiction, I would have laughed in their face. Me an addict? Don’t be silly.

Like every addict I was still in the self-denial phase. It has taken COVID-19 to make me wake up and smell the coffee.

I AM an addict, and like any addict I am always looking for my next fix, my injection of happiness and corresponding rush of endorphins. In my case, that’s lacing up my trainers (another addiction for another day), and going for a run.

Let’s rewind to the beginning.

I wasn’t an exceptionally sporty person as a child, I wasn’t sporty full stop. It wasn’t until my twenties that I even considered going for a run. Exercise? Me? No thanks.

However during a period of 10 years, I joined a running club in the UK and ran regularly, until life got in the way and I simply stopped running. By the time I moved to France in 2006, I was no longer running.

But in 2012, a life changing event made me pull my trainers out of retirement. Our daughter, Rebecca, then 30, was diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to raise money to support the organisations that were caring for her.

In October 2012 I stood on the start line of The Great South Run, looking as far removed from being a runner as possible in my rainbow tutu and fluorescent woolly hat. I hadn’t run in nearly 12 years. Well let me tell you, me and my tutu finished in 1hr 36, not too shabby for a then 46 year old.

The seed was sown, my return to running was germinating. In 2013, I did both the Great North Run and the Great South Run and then I did the unimaginable…. I entered a marathon.

Sadly our daughter passed away in November 2013 and never got to see me complete the Brighton Marathon.

I have done some amazing races in some stunning locations, but nothing will ever compare to crossing the finish line at Brighton. I can only describe it as an outpouring of built up grief. Brighton will always be special.

How do I continue a run streak of 1543 days in France during a lockdown?

Simply put, I have laced up my trainers and been for a run every day since December 2015. So this brings me to the question, “How is an addict surviving the current COVID-19 crisis?”

We have been in confinement since mid-day on March 17th 2020, and already I am going stir crazy. We are not (yet) on curfew, but every trip outside of your home must be justified by a signed certificate and your ID card.

We are permitted to exercise alone, for a maximum of 2km from our home, but failure to produce the paperwork will result in an automatic fine of 135 euros.

Having smashed a streak for over 4 years, I am not about to let Mr COVID rob me of my achievement. Until yesterday we had the pleasure of being able to run along the beach. I use “we” very lightly, as my husband is required to be at least 100 metres away from me, otherwise it is not classed as a solo activity….

But the beaches are now off limits along with green spaces, and as a runner, I feel that the walls are closing in. The liberty that I have always taken for granted has been pulled from beneath me, and if we are going to beat the pandemic, I need to comply.

Today I will be confined to our private grounds. Luckily for me, I am confined at work where I have 14 hectares in which to run. One loop of the grounds is 1 mile.

Lapped runs

Long runs doing laps can drive you crazy, but so can being confined. In my book, a small run is better than no run at all. I worry about the effect that this current lockdown will have on me mentally, and other active people must also be feeling the void left from exercise.

I try to structure my day starting with a kettlebell work out. If I need bread and other essentials, I take my bike to the shops. (When I asked the local policeman if I could bike to the shops, he gave me the thumbs up providing I had my papers and ID) and I finish the day with at least a 1 mile jog outside.

Social media has also played a part in supporting me mentally. I am a member of several on line running communities, so although isolated physically, I still feel connected to the wider world.

The message I give to COVID-19 is “you may be strong, but I am stronger”. Things are here to challenge us in unprecedented ways, but we CAN survive this!


You can read more about Julie’s exploits via her blog, Grandma Streaks Along the Brittany Coast.

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