Thursday, July 2, 2020
I’m not a big fan of running metaphors (OK… yes I am), but this one feels right for 2020.
This pandemic is a race we never signed up for. There are no mile markers, no aid stations, no smiling faces cheering from the sidelines. There’s no medal for us waiting at the end. And most importantly, we aren’t sure where the finish line is…
To make matters worse, it feels entirely uphill. It’s pouring rain. Your shoes feel like they weigh 100 lbs and your feet are covered in blisters. You are overheated and it feels like your heart is beating in your throat (or is that vomit trying to creep up, who knows?). Every body part that can chafe, has chafed… The wind is literally pushing you backwards. It even blew a contact out of your eye and now you can’t see… (Am I talking about the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon or the current pandemic, I can’t tell).
Thankfully, when I got the email stating that the Boston Marathon (my first) was cancelled, I didn’t feel too much. The pandemic had already taken a lot from me by that point. I am about to move to a new city to be a new doctor, fighting a new virus. In summary, I am worried about a lot of things right now.
Thankfully, one thing I am not worried about right now is running. Races may get cancelled but running is not going anywhere. And I want you to know that it is absolutely OK if progress looks different right now…
If you have extra time and energy and want to spend it running more miles than normal… that’s OK.
If this pandemic has you feeling drained and your legs only have one pace… that’s OK too.
If running familiar routes bring you comfort, run them.
If running new trails makes you feel alive, run them.
If running in the rain washes away all of your fears, run in rain.
If running in the sun makes you feel like the world might one day feel safe again, run in the sun.
If running in silence brings you peace, leave your headphones at home.
If listening to podcasts while running makes you feel less alone, crank up the volume.
If running up hills makes you start crying, walk up the damn hill.
If running up hills makes you feel strong, find new hills and charge up them.
Without races, progress might look different. But please believe me when I tell you that’s OK. There is no right or wrong way to run in times of great uncertainty… whatever makes your heart feel a little lighter, do that! Because the world needs humans with lighter hearts right now.
To get back to my pandemic/running metaphor… Sometimes when running gets a little hard but there’s an end to difficulty, it makes sense to double down on your effort, to work harder and longer. For example, your hip starts hurting a little but you know that in .2 miles you will cross the finish line and can rest so you summon every last molecule of ATP in your body to speed up for just 2 more minutes. But when running gets a lot hard… when you’re running against 40 mph winds and you have 20 miles to go (why does this keep reminding me of the Marine Corps Marathon), doubling down on your effort is downright dangerous (have you ever walked the last 6 miles of a marathon…). This pandemic is scenario number 2. Take a breath. Slow down. And find joy. We have a got a ways to go and we might as well go with a lighter heart.
-Melanie Rebechi, Boston Training Group Runner & Elite Race Team Member