During late March 2020 as the impact of Covid beging to hit the NHS the Government decided to lockdown. Sport, as with everything else, took a massive hit: all training and competitions were immediately cancelled. My particular sport is middle distance running on both track and during the winter cross country.
Although there was some resumption of track racing in September 2020 the number of events was limited and as track running doesn’t continue during winter this finished after a few more races in October. Due to the view that it was a greater risk to covid infection spread there was no cross country racing held over the winter of 2020/21.
Whilst track racing is enjoyable I have always found that cross country racing more enjoyable so missing a whole year of this was very disappointing for me. In September 2021 I was delighted that cross country racing resumed and I was able to run in my first cross country race for 18 months.
Whilst I was pleased to be able to return to cross country I have noticed that there are a number of girls who were running at about the same level as me before the pandemic but who have not since returned to either the track or to any cross country racing.
As a 14 year old girl and attending a girls’ school I realise that the level of girls sports participation starts to fall. The long term effects of the covid lockdown on sport participation cannot yet be fully analysed but from what I have seen since returning to some track racing late last year and so far during the cross country season there has been an even more severe drop in participation. The Power of 10 provides a track of the performance of every athlete in the UK. I have seen that there is no evidence of racing by a number of girls since early in 2020 when the pandemic ended all events.
I am sad to see how the pandemic has put a break on so many girls’ running. I have tried to understand why it appears that so many appear to have decided to end their running. I appreciate that the support of a team and coaches around a cross country runner is vital in retaining a positive mental state throughout difficult periods of training and competition. Almost as soon as lockdown was announced our coach set up a WhatsApp group for everyone to share images of their training – whether just doing exercises at home or running through empty parks. This helped keep me in touch with the other girls despite not being able to meet them. We were further helped and encouraged by our coach setting up weekly virtual running competitions: each week there would be a different run distance chosen and all the times were submitted and recorded in one large spreadsheet. To keep it fair when calculating our performances a handicap system was introduced so that your results were judged against how you were expected to perform. I’m sure that many of those that decided to give up did not have the benefit of this “virtual” support. This meant that they were not motivated to keep training in the same way as before and thus when the time came to return to normal training they had sadly lost their interest in what I think is a great sport for all abilities which is one of the easiest to participate in.