If you know anything about me or have ever spoken to me for even 10 minutes, you probably know that I live all year for the 3rd weekend in March. I take Friday and Monday off work, I train hard all winter, and I look forward to a long weekend in Virginia Beach celebrating all things running, green, and the beach.
This year, not only was I looking forward to Shamrock Marathon weekend, I had a perfectly curated spring race schedule, perfectly filling the calendar with race after race. From the 2nd weekend in March until mid-May, I had at least one race nearly every weekend. I had been really looking forward to returning to some fun races I've done before and trying a few new ones.
When it became clear that COVID-19 was going to have an impact on our everyday life in the United States, I started to get nervous about my long awaited race schedule. 'Social Distancing' became a thing and I thought the race after parties would be pretty lame. At Shamrock specifically, there are 30,000 runners and the after party includes a packed tent with live bands. They typically have pretty good bands too and Dan and I tend to stick around for awhile following the races to enjoy the music and celebrate. I assumed at the very least, the celebration would either not happen or be pretty lame compared to usual.
The first definite answer I got was from Garden Spot Village Half Marathon. The race starts and ends at a large retirement community and benefits their benevolence fund. It's a local race to me but one that I've really enjoyed the last several years. The Garden Spot race director sent notification that they would not be holding the race this year --and there are options to run virtually, get a refund, or defer to next year. I completely understood, a retirement community is the last place that several thousand visitors from all over the country and even some internationally, should descend although still bummed.
Within a few days of the Garden Spot announcement, I started getting notifications almost daily that races are cancelled or postponed. I was disappointed by all of them but none of them hurt quite like Shamrock and I completely understand I'm just one of 30,000 disappointed runners. As I type this, we should be on our way to Virginia Beach (I should note that I'm not disappointed that we don't have the drive to Virginia Beach and back) and it's setting in that everything is upside down.
This week has brought rapid changes. I've transitioned to working from home and all non-life sustaining businesses in PA have been ordered to close. Work from home, social distance, everything is closed, all the things you were looking forward to are cancelled....well that's a tough break for this extrovert. I mean I have the word 'human' in my job title after all.
I asked myself how in the world will I get through this, well two things are clear...the only way to salvage my mental and physical health is to stay active. We're having a lovely spring in south central PA and from where I live, I can run mile after mile without interacting with anyone. I've made it a point to keep up with the daily home workouts that Orange Theory is posting in their app. I've also been taking a mid-day walk for at least 30 minutes and running daily when I finish work for the day.
Yesterday, during my walk, I was thinking that maybe in 10 years, we'll look back and say 'remember that year with no spring races?!'. Although its not at all what I had planned, I'm challenging myself to not only maintain my fitness but improve it during this time that life is turned upside down.
I had thoughts of challenging myself to run all the distances on all the days that I would have had races. I did complete a virtual 5k last Sunday in place of a 5k I was planning to do in Baltimore that day but I'm not sure if I'm mentally up for running all of the races alone. It may come down to seeing how I feel on Sunday before I decide if I'm up for running 26.2 miles by myself. I had by far my best ever 20 mile training run a few weeks ago. I'm not sure if I want to leave this training cycle at that and be really happy with that 20 mile run or should I take the risk and run my own 'virtual' marathon. Ultimately, it will probably a decision of Sunday morning.
What I do know is that my arms are sore from the daily Orange Theory workouts and I'm excited about that, it means I'm working. When racing comes back, and it will, I'm going to know I'm ready.