Willie Richards is an endurance adventure athlete based in Capte Town. Here, he shares his experience of running and working in Western Australia during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Running and being outdoors is such a pertinent part of my life, especially during the past couple of years. It gives me direction and has helped me numerous times to resolve issues in my life, be they personal or work related. One of the first things I pack in my bag before I leave for any business trip is my running shoes and some running kit. Over the years, I have used running to explore many new areas I’ve been based for a work project.
Running helps me free my mind from work stress, but the main goal is to stay healthy and fit. It has opened so many doors for me and created so many opportunities to meet great people from all walks of life, especially through my #500kmplus and #WheresWillie campaigns. It is such a basic form of exercise. Even during these troubled times that we are all in, running has kept me positive and focussed.
It is easy to lock yourself up and dwell on all that is wrong and negative in our crazy, unstable world. As the familiar saying goes, “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.” I am not going to tell you all is great and running will solve all our problems, but it does offer a way to cope with the issues that keep us awake at night.
Three months ago, I travelled for yet another short-term project – this time, to the west coast of Australia. After I checked in to my accommodation, I grabbed my shoes, laced up, and headed out for a run. Just a little run to get the blood pumping and stretch my tired legs after sitting for hours on end. I had all these plans that if I got time off, I would enter some trail or even road races to see what the Australian racing scene was like. Two-and-a-half weeks into my trip, it all changed.
Lockdown. All races, even parkruns, were shut down due to COVID-19. You could not even leave the state you were in. My plan to see what the Australian racing scene was like went up in smoke. Businesses were closed, pubs and restaurants shut down, and I saw a bustling waterfront area grind to a halt. It looked like a scene from an end-of-time movie. Traffic became a trickle. But suddenly, more people were walking on the boardwalks, and I started to notice more people out running and getting fit. People had more time on their hands and started to enjoy the things they used to love doing but had no time for due to their crazy schedules.
Numerous evenings, I came home after a long 12-hour shift to be rewarded with the most beautiful sunsets. It was as if the Western Australia skyline had been painted by an artist. Hues of red and orange blended into greys.
The lockdown was terrible in terms of job losses and businesses shutting down. But on the flip side, people got out of their busy routines and started to discover being outdoors again. Shopping centres emptied, and non-essential shopping happened less. Which, in return, gave nature a break from useless consumerism.
Halfway through my trip, my shifts changed from days to nights, meaning that my beautiful sunset runs were replaced by early afternoon runs, as I just had to get out running, even if it meant before night shift started. Running helped keep me positive and focused on the project I was involved in. I did not see much of Western Australia, only the little stretch of coastline 14km each way from where I stayed. Some days, I would run south along the coastline and other days, I took the flat option and ventured north.
Australia, or should I say WA, is covered with running paths. For me, the best part of running these paths was that everyone was so friendly. If you arrived at a pedestrian crossing, cars would stop for you to cross. People would acknowledge you on the path and, most of the time, return a friendly greeting or smile. I left after three months and there was seldom a day I did not run along the coastline from where I was based. I absolutely fell in love with the open coastline and the easy access to run everywhere.
I hope to return to WA in the future, but next time, I want to race and run some proper distances. My mind has started to wonder, “What if I return to complete one of my challenges in Australia?” WA, thank you for your epic sunsets, beautiful footpaths, and an all-round 10/10 experience.
For now, I am stuck in quarantine in Johannesburg, and all I can think about are the great runs I had along the west coast of Australia. I am itching to get outdoors and get a decent run in. I am not built for being inside this long…
I will be back! If you like my little blurb, you can read about some of my previous challenges on #WheresWillie and #500kmplus, or follow me @500kmplus.