In the last four days, seven different people have followed me on Strava. These people – once found congregated in Hackney breweries – have become unrecognisable since the start of the coronavirus crisis. No, they haven’t shaved their heads or taken up bread baking. They have become Joggers.
Coronavirus is, of course, a bizarre time for everyone. God only knows what hobbies or meals we’ve turned to during the pandemic, and many of us will look back on the time we spent 20 minutes making the “TikTok coffee" or gained a sudden interest in braising with quiet shame. Others will speak of quarantine as a “pause” from life that allowed them to really focus on themselves (“honest to God, I’ve never been happier”).
And then there are the Joggers.
An important distinction: the Jogger in lockdown time (LT) is slightly different to the Jogger before lockdown (BL). Whereas the Jogger BL will be reasonably comfortable in his or her personal running achievements, the Lockdown Jogger is an insecure beginner, desperate for validation. Like a mum new to Facebook (“Just poured myself a glass of red... it’s five o'clock somewhere!!"; "Jane is... Feeling Wacky :P"), the Lockdown Jogger plasters their new hobby on every social media platform going.
At first, these posts will be tentative and partially self-aware. “Aha, guess I’m THAT GUY now,” they write after their first 5K. A few runs and likes on their running app later – amplified by increased social media use during the lockdown – and the posts will pick up. “Beaut sunset in London Fields tonight on my 8K (elvtion: 45m, time: 45m, negative splits). Lovely colours!!” their Instagram story reads. “Does anyone know the best running shoe for medium to long road runs?” And then, when all sense of irony has disappeared and you notice that they have joined two virtual running clubs and signed up to next month's 10k: “Comfortable pace on this one."
As time passes, the Lockdown Jogger's confidence builds, and their attitude becomes more insufferable. They do not observe the rules of social distancing – that would mean jeopardising a PB for you to pass on a narrow pavement. Instead they huff and sweat next to you, drum and bass Spotify Run playlist leaking out of their earphones, as they fling their body to the side in an elaborate avoidance gesture. The Lockdown Jogger won’t stop talking about how they “can’t wait for Parkrun to return”, and keeps track of whether their housemates have run more times this week than them (they haven’t). They announce, loudly, that they have shin splints. They don't know what shin splints are.
Sartorially, the Lockdown Jogger isn’t quite there yet. Before the pandemic, they were more of a “kick a ball about a park on a warm day” kind of guy, which means that most of their runs take place in Year Nine PE leggings or clingy football tops – the synthetic material of the Sunderland 1997-99 away shirt clutching inappropriately at their torso. The Lockdown Jogger didn’t manage to get any actual running gear before the crisis, but they're working on it. They've done a few call-outs for trainer recommendations (“Brooks? – heard good things”) and have an order for a Nike vest that should be coming any day now.
If the Lockdown Jogger hasn’t followed you on Strava yet, they will soon. And Nike Running. Their dormant account has gone from about two activities a year (one was a walk) to three a week, and they are seriously considering the Pro Account. Who knew that they would be so brilliant at running? This could be a game-changer, a hobby for life that totally re-contextualises their relationship with sport; health; their body. “Wow. Huh... running is kind of addictive?”, they humblebrag, totting up the 22k they've done in the last week. "Guess I'm quite good at it."
The moment lockdown ends and there’s something else to do in the evenings, the Lockdown Jogger will revert to their natural self – thinking about doing a run, not doing it, going to the pub, and never speaking of this time ever, ever again.