Once you run a marathon — or a half marathon, or any race, really — people start asking you when your next one is. Most of us get to a point where we know the answer to that question, or how to deflect it. And, to some extent, when you’re focused on the marathon, you get sucked into these training cycles. Usually it’s two a year — a marathon in the spring and again in the fall. Training gets structured around those races, 12 weeks or 16 weeks or 20 weeks or whatever. I train basically year-round (honestly one of the things I love about working with coach Matt), with breaks here and there and less intensity at different points, but I don’t really go “okay time for week 1 of 16.” That’s been good for me — but I’ve still been caught up in that cycle of racing. 
Until this year.

The pandemic hit at a weird time for me. I was peaking for Carmel Marathon on April 4 as everything shut down. I had a tune-up half marathon scheduled for March 14, and had decided the week of the race to cancel my hotel and drive in that morning so I could just race and drive back. (It was about 2 hours away, but on central time.) I wasn’t surprised when they cancelled, and I was quickly coming around to the idea Carmel was probably going to be a bust, too.

And that stung. It stung a little less because I wasn’t in phenomenal shape — I thought I’d run okay and I was mentally prepared to get gritty, but I wasn’t expecting to PR. But I had still invested a lot of time and effort into training and then … poof. I identified a few other options, but as we all know it quickly became clear it wasn’t safe. (Anyone else totally mind-blown about that first month or so? When we didn’t know to wear masks, and we thought it would be over in a few weeks? CRAZY.)

Over the next few months, I was hit-or-miss. Some days I ran to feel better; some days running seemed like too much; some days I ran on the treadmill because it was nice outside and I was afraid of the park being crowded. Over time, I changed my regular running routes to avoid people. And I ran inside, a lot. I figured if I was running by myself and I can’t stop for water … I might as well have hydration, a fan and a television. 

But this year also gave me space to run because I like running, not because I have XX weeks until a race. It forced me to step back from the goal race cycle and just go. Not to mention that working from home allowed me to run on a more flexible schedule, logging miles later in the morning since I didn’t have to commute, or running at lunch, or in the early afternoon. WHENEVER! I love it. 

I did some virtual races. I finished GVRAT. I did time trials on the treadmill because I’m a monster. I squeezed in a small number of reasonably safe in-person races. Some days I didn’t run, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I surprised myself more than once, including this week when I dropped some unexpectedly quick threshold 400s. Somehow, without a race on the schedule, I have found myself in some sort of shape. 

I learned that I miss competing, but I also miss the camaraderie. I love the shared experience of a race — commiserating about tough courses, celebrating great weather, cheering those who had a good day and lifting up those who had bad ones. There’s a glimmer of hope for racing in 2021, and I truly hope I can give some sweaty finish line high-fives soon.

By the numbers

  • Miles run: 2,324 (2019: 1,957; 2018: 2,584)
  • Treadmill miles: 801 (103 hours!)
  • Best shows:
    • Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
    • Jack Ryan
    • The Queen’s Gambit
    • Never Have I Ever
    • 100 Day Dream Home