It is perhaps an understatement to say that 2020 has been a very challenging and draining year for all of us. As one of my favourite broadcasters says of COVID-19 – ‘we are all in the same storm, but all in different boats’.
On a personal level, one unexpected yet positive outcome of events this year has been that I have been able (like many of you I’m sure) to exercise outside more. In my case, I have been able to run to my hearts’ – and legs – content.
In June, amidst all of the uncertainty after the first lockdown, I embarked on a journey to run as many streets in York as possible. Initially, this challenge was to maintain my motivation as I waited for a new date for Manchester Marathon to be announced. I was getting a bit bored of doing the same old routes and I desperately wanted to freshen my training up a bit. When this new date did not materialize, I just kept on running (yes, you spotted the brazen reference to Forrest Gump; no I’m not comparing my challenge to his!)
Approximately 912 miles on, 133 hours of activity and 2 pairs of trainers later, just before Christmas I ran street number 2020 in Earswick to cap a remarkable of running.
Although I am not finished and have around 1000 streets left – which I am hoping to do by Easter at the latest – I thought I would share some of the highlights of my journey so far…
One of the biggest highlights of the challenge so far has been that I have been able to get to know my adopted home city so much better. My journey has taken me into areas I didn’t realize existed in York – discovering new trails, parks, and woodland areas in the process. I have also noticed a lot of ‘ghost signs’. For those not familiar with this term, ghost signs are visible reminders of a city or town’s past or heritage; the most famous in York being the Bile Beans sign near the junction of Lord Mayor’s Walk and Monkgate. I would have missed all these signs if I had not explored York as I have done, and in doing so found out so much more about the city I live in.
On my more recent travels – often at night time when I have most of my spare time – I have enjoyed spotting various Christmas decorations. I think I have now seen every conceivable set-up when it comes to decorations – from the lavishly decorated to the more modest offerings; some tasteful, some not so! Interestingly, some areas and some streets took real pride in going to town with their lights, while running around some suburbs you would never have guessed it was Christmas. Well done Huntington; New Earswick please try harder next time!
In the space of six months, I have certainly seen my fair share of interesting characters. From inadvertently running right past a lunchtime punch-up between four builders in one of York’s least salubrious suburbs to inexplicably coming face to face to two beautiful but angry looking peacocks in a quiet Fulford suburb (still not sure why they were there, or who they belonged to), it has certainly been an interesting experience. Like many aspects of life, you never know what is around the corner!
Also humorous has been seeing people’s reactions as they have observed me running (seemingly aimlessly) around various quiet cul-de-sacs. Evidently, they must think I am lost and disorientated! Early on in the challenge, I made the mistake of explaining to a resident of a quiet street the challenge I was doing. He genuinely looked at me as if I was a little unstable and I wandered off feeling a bit foolish. So now, if anyone approaches me, I gladly accept the directions and say nothing!
Approximately 1000 streets in, I wrote a blog for the Running Bible on my challenge, reflecting on the first three months of my progress. After my blog was picked up by Mike from York Menfulness (https://menfulness.org/) – an amazing community that I am proud to be a part of – I got an unexpected email from my local radio station asking if I would like to be interviewed about my challenge. Always keen to talk about running (just ask my family) and sensing they thought I was a bit mad, I naturally jumped at the chance to chat and confirm their suspicions. Talking to the lovely Joanita on BBC Radio York on the Saturday morning breakfast show in my pyjamas was both brilliant and odd!
Probably the best highlights has been the mental and physical benefits the challenge has brought me, at what has been a very difficult year. Having the #StreetsOfYorkChallenge has allowed me to focus on a project, it has given purpose to my training (even as planned races have fallen like dominoes) and allowed me to focus on just getting out and putting one foot in front of the other. Not only this, but the whole process is strangely addictive. From looking at the map and considering which area to focus on, to getting out and ticking off the streets, to admiring the heatmap of streets done there has been a nice and simple quality to my challenge.
As we move into 2021, with hopefully some light at the end of the tunnel, my journey to run all of York’s streets will continue. With it, I will keep on ticking those streets off, remaining thankful for what I have and staying positive. Stay safe everyone and get outside when you can!
If you would like to follow my progress on Instagram, search for @rundaveymc on Instagram or follow #StreetsOfYorkChallenge. Thank you!
Author David Lingwood