While I feel like there are countless stories of people picking up new hobbies or revisiting old ones during the pandemic, I thought I would add a post about one of my hobbies that I picked back up again. During the pandemic, I picked running back up again. If not for the pandemic, I definitely would not have started running again because I only started during the first lockdown when I was living in Singapore in early April.
When I was younger, I ran in cross-country during middle school, although I never ran more than around 2 miles. Running was tiring for me, and I always had limited stamina. I never did particularly well in the races, but I tried my best. I would also run two laps around the park across the street from the house where I grew up. Every time, I would run the same two laps around the park.
In high school, I did not join cross country again, but I started running in 5K races. Those were pretty fun! Certainly, at the beginning, I really struggled and could not run the entire time. But slowly, over time, I improved until I could run sub 30 minute 5Ks. In high school, I mainly ran these 5K races with my dad, and it was nice to have a running partner.
After I came to uni in Edinburgh, I stopped running outside. I mainly went to fencing or occasionally to the gym for my exercise. I was definitely walking a lot more than I ever had before but I stopped running. In my second year of uni, I would occasionally run on the treadmill, but I have never really liked running inside very much. I want the breeze on my face and to feel the air whooshing past me as I run. At the end of second year, I ran in another 5K race in Edinburgh and actually had my best time ever at a little over 25 minutes. It seemed that getting older was really helping with my stamina, although I still felt quite tired at the end of that race (and cold because it was so cold on that March day in Edinburgh, and I was out in shorts and short sleeves).
After that, I ran sporadically when I returned home briefly in the summer of 2019, but I really did not run again regularly until the lockdown in Singapore in April 2020. I remember my American roommate from the halls in Singapore making some comment about how my body type looked very well-suited for running. When everything shut down, I thought why the hell not, I’ll give running another go.
Running in Singapore was really a shock to the system. Even though I was only running a 5K at first, the humidity in the air meant that my shirt was completely soaked through with sweat. I purposely ran in the late afternoon at 6:30, and I still could hardly bare it. To this day, I do not understand how Singaporeans could do a run in the middle of the day without collapsing from heat stroke. For that first month and a half when I picked running back up, I ran around the grounds of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) where I was an exchange student. One lap was about a 5K, and the run eventually became easier for me.
In mid-May, I had to move out of student halls into a shared flat in Singapore, and that’s when I started doing much longer runs around Singapore’s neighborhoods. I explored so many nooks and crannies that I would never have seen if I had not gone running. At some level, I was amazed at the progress that I was making in terms of stamina. Where before I had only managed to run a 5K (3.2 miles), now I could run a 10K (6.4 miles). In fact, towards the end of my stay in Singapore, I did about a 10-mile run. I was so amazed with myself that I had enough stamina to do that, especially in Singapore’s heat. I’ve never really felt like I was very athletic, but now I felt like I was actually in good running shape. For the first time, I actually felt like I could call myself a runner, and I was excited to try running in Edinburgh where I had not been since I had left in May 2019.
When I arrived in Edinburgh, I had to do a two-week quarantine. I was itching to get outside by the end of it. I believe on the second or third day out of quarantine, I went for my first run outside in Edinburgh ever (since I had never run outside in my first two years at Edinburgh) looping around Princes Street and then coming back south through the Meadows. It was so good to feel the wind again and go on a run where I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse from heat stroke.
On my second run ever in Edinburgh, I went south and got very, very lost. I had intended to loop around the Royal Infirmary and then come back home, but through some strange way I ended up having no idea where I was and no idea how to get back. I ended up being out for three hours, which was so long that my flatmates were worried about where I had gone. I ended up going in circles around one neighborhood before eventually finding the signs pointing me back towards the city centre.
Despite being worried about finding my way back, I saw so many parts of Edinburgh that I had never seen before. It was a great way to see the city. And on a run much later, I was able to recognize some of where I had been and try to connect the dots as to where I was (although to this day, I am still not entirely sure about what route I took). I began to run every other day in first semester and seeing so many places I had not seen before in Edinburgh like parts of Leith and Portobello. Through running, I feel like I have gotten to know the city so much better than the little part of it that I saw when I was just going to the George Square campus every day in my first two years of living in the city.
Running was also a great way to bond with my flatmates. It was nice to have running partners again, and I started running regularly with one of my flatmates and more irregularly with another one. I feel like running has been a great way of becoming better friends with them. Especially since I do not listen to music on my runs, it is nice to have someone to talk to. Although on the other hand, running is a nice time to be alone with my thoughts and think about random stuff. In fact, I thought of the idea of my first blogpost while running.
Through the pandemic, I have gone from someone who had occasionally run in the past to someone who regularly runs relatively long distances (at least for me). I used to think it was impossible that I would ever be able to run a 10K (6.4 miles) let alone a half-marathon. Now, though, I feel like a half-marathon would be doable provided I keep running. Getting older has definitely helped my running stamina, but all the runs I have gone on have really helped with stamina too.
I’m happy that I’ve become a runner through the pandemic. Even though coronavirus rules will relax in future, I will continue to run. I have really enjoyed exploring new places and has really meant I have seen so much more of Edinburgh. But perhaps most of all, I will continue to run for the sense of accomplishment I feel when I complete long runs.