Without the communication resources we have, it would be almost impossible to take care of vulnerable people and stay aware of what's going on in the rest of the world. People are capitalising on the situation; people are in serious trouble because of the situation. Incredibly, it doesn't sound very far removed from our "normal" existence. "Class division" is almost an outdated term, but it looks increasingly likely that it will be a very real, very accurate way to describe society after we've moved through the desolation of the pandemic.
It's been a real experience being an athlete through this phase. There's sort of a removed numbness and a weird, disquieting relief. We travelled down to Nottingham the day before quarantine was announced for the first race of the British selection series; and turned around again in twelve hours because the country was in lockdown. Selection can be an extremely heavy experience for athletes, because we spend an entire winter preparing for this race that will decide whether or not we can participate in the world cup series and the world championships. The weird relief comes from building up to this high pressure event, then all of a sudden, it's completely removed. You did all the work, and had the satisfaction of knowing that you were at your peak physical form. It's disquieting because after a few days, you realise the start line is something that is actually extremely important to you, in reality as well as words.
Athletes are not essential to society. We do not perform a front line role in keeping people well, or supplying people with food, or looking after kids. But in this phase of global crisis (which just keeps delivering, not just the pandemic) people are turning to sources of comfort, and inspiration, and motivation. I feel as though this is where, if athletes truly want to fill a role that directly benefits people, we can adapt to the situation and try to help. I know several athletes with nursing degrees who have jumped straight back on the front line into roles that put them in danger every day. I know a lot of athletes are feeling able to contribute with creative content, motivational posts and live question and answer sessions. I think that's epic, and if people have time to sit down and learn about their own brains and bodies, then athletes are stepping up to this role of sharing their experiences.
But it's tough, because while some people are inspired and motivated to share with the world, others really aren't. Because sport is at such a high level now, being fluent on social media is very low on the list of things that will help you achieve world class status. You don't need to be a professional photographer or comfortable sharing your life with people to be world champion. You need to be exceptionally good at being alone, at getting logistics done, being comfortable in physical conditions that other people wouldn't tolerate. Yes, to be funded by British Sport you have to have a certain amount of contact time with communities and development initiatives. But you're carefully guided through those, and always with the option to back out if it's unbearable.
So we don't fill a critical role for society. It's hard to be inspired and motivated every day, especially when you might now be forced into a very basic routine at a time of year when you'd be travelling a huge amount and preparing for race after race. But people are being forced to sit down and adopt routines that might be inherently uncomfortable for them. We're taught from very early to make sure our routines are air-tight, perfect. For so, so many people this kind of perfect routine is impossible. People are having to adapt to situations in which many parts are going to be uncomfortable and stay that way, maybe even after the pandemic has begun to recede. My heart goes out to people and places that are dealing with catastrophic effects, with absolutely no control over the situation.
I do think as athletes, we can help. We aren't vital, but people are sitting down and listening. They might not care about your workouts, they might not rate sports at all. But reaching out and showing people that you're having a melancholic day, and that you've found joy in something very small, might make the kind of difference that makes a second of someones time a little easier. I think at some level, everyone's humanity is being exposed. Which is cool, because at a very deep level, we're all interconnected. So I think if any athletes make it this far down the blog (well done), I'd say we're doing an alright job. We can always do better; but sharing something of your knowledge of routines, acceptance of setbacks, and understanding of individuals, could really help someone who is stuck. We're in a hard enough sport that we know what it's like, on various levels, to be out of control of a situation. Try and share something that's helped you with that. (Also seriously well done on getting to the end!)