It’s crazy to think that just a few weeks ago, the world looked so different; or perhaps I was just oblivious, considering I rarely watch the news or browse mindlessly on social media. I knew of the Coronavirus outbreak and saw the care being taken to plan and prepare for a potential pandemic, but I did not dwell on it or delve into the details, as (luckily, for me) this is no longer my primary field of work. But as this virus gained momentum, the whole world began to take note and adjust accordingly. Race events postponed or cancelled. Offices and “nonessential” businesses began to cancel appointments and shutdown. Social distancing and self-isolation became a “thing”.
Truth be told, I’ve always considered myself a bit of a “Pro” at this behavior because, while I enjoy interacting with people and encouraging, inspiring, or building them up, I oftentimes find myself drained by too much social interaction and require quite a bit of time alone to “recharge”.
Training for marathons has always helped me find that time for myself. (Not too many people are wanting to tag along for runs lasting hours long or for speed intervals that literally make you puke.) But when my goal races cancelled, just 6 weeks away from my next event, I cannot lie, I had a mini-meltdown. And when the Boston Athletic Association made the difficult decision to postpone this year’s Boston Marathon, the potential impact for next year’s qualifying standards were palpable.
This was the moment when my life stood still, stopped in its tracks. All that time, all that effort, all those workouts I didn’t think that I could do but found a way to get done… were they all for nothing?
But, when the fate and future of all humankind becomes uncertain, the pursuits of such athletic achievements pale in comparison and suddenly feel trivial and selfish.
Panic began to rise up in my chest. Fears of the past echoing out my name. All those times I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. All those days that lacing up my shoes felt pointless. The feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness and the bitter taste of sadness, guilt, and regret.
It was BOSTON that got me through…wasn’t it?
Chasing that elusive “unicorn” to better days and faster race times. This was what brought me back to life in that period where “death” was a more peaceful state of being than my own mind was at the time. There I was, back on my feet, chasing a dream that was, finally, within my reach. Just six more weeks and the possibility was very real that I could achieve it; or come so close as to know that it could be done by the end of summer.
And just like that; it was all over.
The world stopped in its tracks; and so did I.
Truth be told, it was about a week before I ran again. But the thought finally occurred to me: I don’t need “Boston” to tell me I’m “good enough”.
If the world never fully recovers and races never resume, would I not still run?
OF COURSE I WOULD!
I am a RUNNER, it’s what I do! And I love doing it!
So WHY was I pushing myself so hard and placing all of my confidence and self-worth in the hands of an “association” that doesn’t even know my name, let alone who I am, as a person?
Is not the real value of our training the physical benefits of being fit, healthy, and capable of enduring the time, distance, and/or pace of what we consider our “play”?
As a kid, did you not wake up every morning, chomping at the bit to go outside and “play”?
Did you not “play” for as long and as hard as you were allowed?
So at what point did I place so much “value” on the Boston Marathon that I let it dictate if and when and how I “play”?
The answer doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that I am now realizing that “Boston”, while a very prestigious event and incredible honor to achieve, is merely just that – simply, an event.
Like opting in to a game of “Chase” or “Rundown” as a child. Sure, you have to run fast enough to get in. But not everyone who runs “fast enough” CHOOSES to go run Boston.
Does that make them any less of a runner?
Not in my opinion.
In fact, there are many runners who are fitter, faster, and stronger than any Boston Qualifying time.
In the current state of this world, I am taking advantage of some of my “downtime” to read several books written by such runners. Ultramarathoners who have used their running to overcome some very difficult stages of their lives and have progressed to the point of completing and/or competing in race events much more challenging than a 26.2 mile road race.
One thing I have noticed that they all have in common is an inner peace and mental strength far greater than anything that I have ever experienced.
THIS is what I seek.
This is what I have been searching for my entire adult life.
This is what I have caught glimpses of on many of my “untracked”, “unplanned”, “unregulated” runs.
Runs where I allowed myself to just enjoy the act of running; when I ran simply “for the love of the run”!
Call it “mediation”, call it “mindfulness”, call it whatever you’d like; but when you let go of what “was” or what “should be” and simply embrace what IS, you will feel it.
And the more you feel it, the more it will set you free.
Who knew that “Letting Go” could be such a beautiful thing?