Mike Rowbottom

One of the loveliest experiences right now is watching our two dogs race around the garden. Our older dog - whose former playmate died in November 2019 - used to be the faster one. But, although he still motors, the newbie one-year-old floats away from him.

So he outfoxes her, ambushes her, and, after a flurry of fur and paws, they set off again on their loops around the big tree, running and running until, dog-tired, they are ready to drop.

At this moment a similarly joyful and innocent exultation in activity is taking place across the short stretch of The English Channel that has become so long in these COVID days as outdoor sport is allowed once again in England.

The exuberant Sunday football matches that took place at the Stade opposite our gates have yet to return - even though there is often the sound of a football being booted around there.

But while here in France we gird for another wave of the virus, England's Government has allowed people to meet once again in groups of up to six and for outdoor sport, including team sports, to resume.

That this resurgence is coinciding with spring seems symbolic.

At Morley Hayes Golf Club, near Derby, a group of golfers greeted the easing of restrictions by taking to the fairways at just after midnight.

Seven teams used glow-in-the-dark balls and floodlit greens, with their opening drives taking place at 12.01am.

At the North Dulwich Lawn Tennis Club in South London, head coach Peter Wright said members were eager to get back on court without delay.

"Oh, there's absolutely huge excitement," he told Sky News. "The courts open at seven o'clock in the morning, and every court is booked from seven o'clock until half past eight in the evening.

"It's still social distancing of course, which is interesting playing tennis."

Lidos have been reporting a mass of interest in early morning outdoor swims.

Rowers and scullers are back on the rivers and waterways.

In Bristol, my former insidethegames colleague James Diamond has reported on the return of surfing to The Wave, where there has been gleeful return to the man-made lagoon with its artificially-generated challenges.

By the by, some English newspapers are using the term "Happy Monday". 

There is an irony in this, given the phrase reportedly originated among unemployed people for whom that day of the week was the one on which their dole payment arrived. A day on which they could happily continue in inactivity without having to join the toiling masses. 

On this Monday the happy ones are the active ones, the sporting masses.

Sport - that is, elite sport - continues to be beset with familiar troubles. Nick Harris had another exclusive in the Mail on Sunday yesterday, detailing how in 2011 a positive test for nandrolone from one of Britain's top riders, rather than being followed up by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), was passed back to British Cycling, who were then allowed to conduct their own independent investigation.

This was in contravention of World Anti-Doping Agency rules, and that body is now investigating UKAD, which in recent months has played a key part in recalibrating and "rebuilding" the Russian Anti Doping Agency in the wake of the doping scandals that emerged following the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

It is another blow for British Cycling following the finding against its former team doctor Richard Freeman, who was guilty of ordering a banned substance for an unnamed cyclist in 2011.

Freeman has been struck off the British medical register and charged with two anti-doping rule violations by…UKAD.

More details will surely emerge. But at the moment what we know only serves to cloud some of Britain's most dearly-cherished sporting achievements in doubt.

Sport, like life, can never be one thing or the other, and will always be a mix of purity and corruption, innocence and guilt, light and dark.

Today, aptly, is the 40th anniversary of one of sport's most beautiful things - the London Marathon.

Dick Beardsley, left, and Inge Simonsen cross the line together to jointly win the first London Marathon, which took place 40 years ago today ©Getty Images
Dick Beardsley, left, and Inge Simonsen cross the line together to jointly win the first London Marathon, which took place 40 years ago today ©Getty Images

Yes, anyone currently contemplating racing in the next scheduled running will have to negotiate the new moral puzzle of whether to fork out top dollar for carbon plate shoes that, whether you like it or not, will help most who wear them make significant gains in time over the course of 26 miles and 385 yards - or 42.2 kilometres.

Has this most basic of sporting activities - running - now been undermined by greedy commercialism? 

Or is this just the latest step up for a sport that has ascended steadily, like all others, in terms of technology?

Take your pick.

For many, however, it will be the image of that first 1981 London Marathon finish that will recur, as the two leaders - Dick Beardsley of the United States and Inge Simonsen of Norway - held hands to cross the line together.

It remains one of the loveliest of sporting moments - an enduring affirmation that the doing is more than the winning.