Editor’s note: Part four of USA TODAY’s Working Out From Home (#WOFH) series focuses on maintaining your strength at home if you’re used to working out in a gym. Sign up for Good Sports, our weekly newsletter that will bring you more home workout tips + stories of the good throughout the world of sports.
Distance runners everywhere have been feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with races canceled and many courses and trails shut down, keeping runners confined to their residences. Outside of running a multitude of miles on a personal treadmill, distance runners have been tasked with finding creative ways to get in their mileage.
Gareth Allen took that creativity to another level at the end of March, putting together his very own marathon course in his backyard garden in southern England. The 47-year-old from Southampton is a 13-year running veteran who has run 137 marathons and ultramarathons in the last four years.
Given his typical volume of miles and races, carving out his own 26.2-mile course became a necessity. Allen is trying to complete 12 100-mile runs in less than 12 months for charity.
“I’d seen articles on people doing runs in their apartments or balconies. I looked at my garden, got out a tape measure and realized I could actually do a marathon — or more — in my back garden,” Allen told USA TODAY Sports. “The biggest challenge was going to be keeping count and the constant turns. The first problem was solved when a local triathlon company offered to lend me their timing system so I could do live lap counting. The second problem was solved when I decided to change direction every 100 laps.”
Part four of USA TODAY’s Working Out From Home (#WOFH) series focuses on sculpting original courses for distance runners. Allen used his garden’s 130 feet to make out the 138,336 feet necessary for a marathon. That equated to 1,064 laps. He ran it in 5 hours, 2 minutes.
Allen’s garden marathon course has inspired others to be creative with their own courses, he said. He opted to stream his entire race on Facebook Live. At one point, more than 4,000 people were watching.
“The response has been crazy,” Allen said. “I did this for a bit of fun. The live stream was there because I’m more of a social runner, so company is important. The live stream seemed to be a good way of achieving this given the current situation.
“I don’t think I’m an inspiration; I just used technology to show people what is possible and have a bit of fun at the same time. It’s the emergency workers who are the inspiration at the moment.”
The point is, runners don’t have to feel confined by being confined.
Allen said his main advice is to have a positive support system with family or friends, and to be strategic in designing the course to address the mental rigors that often accompany distance runners when the “wall” sets in.
“The main advice is to keep changing direction — so running loops is better than ‘there and back.’ It allows you to vary what parts of your body are under pressure,” Allen said. “Also, if you have a garden, get permission first as I now have a path worn into my lawn,” he added with a laugh.