It’s not that I plan to stop running. That I hope to do to the end of my days. But running a timed race with other runners, I can’t envision at this moment.
A couple of weeks ago I went out for a run at a carefully chosen time to avoid other runners, dog walkers and cyclists. On that solo run with wide empty streets ahead of me, a shocking thought broke through: “Have I run my last race?”
At the last possible minute I signed up and and ran the February 17 Great Aloha Run. It would have been unbelievable to me then that it might be my last race. Within days after, running events around the world were being cancelled, including my own much-loved Capital 10-Miler – a run for the Arts.
It’s not that I am a timid runner. I have run through some tough weather and tough trail courses in difficult conditions. Marathons through miles of slick road underfoot with wind and snow in my face, a couple of Bostons through hurricane winds and a constant deluge of cold rain, the 40-mile HAM crawling over rain-soaked boulders, are under my belt. So, no, I am not a timid runner.
Rain, sleet, unexpected temperatures in the 80’s, slippery trails are challenges that I can mostly see, assess, and take them on. But here’s the thing: Those many wonderful years of road and trail racing have brought me to my mid-70’s. Today, I am not just an age-group runner (AG70-74). By virtue of my age I have taken on a new identify. I am a designated member of “the vulnerable population.”
COVID19 is not kind to our ilk. Unlike the trails and roads filled with potholes, rain-raised concrete, uneven cinders, tree roots, stream crossings, all of which are challenges I welcome, COVID19 is the unseen obstacle on the course. It’s not a fair race finish.
When road races find a way to begin again, and I hope they do for all of my friends who are doing virtual races to keep their competitive spirits and bodies in shape, I don’t know that I have the heart to be with them.
As a woman who was a decent middle-of-the-pack runner, in spite of my best efforts, recent years have seen my times dwindle. As a now back-of-the-packer, do I want to be running behind a throng of faster runners leaving behind all the unintended stuff a body in motions sheds?
I realize that races are looking at ways to make their events as safe and virus-free as possible. Those outlined in Amanda Loudin’s recent article in Podium Runner, are a good start to staying healthy during a race. Even with that, are the odds against me?
I am grateful for my many years of road and trail racing. I am grateful for the miles of training with running friends, grateful for the instant cameraderie with other runners as we line up at the start and grateful for the finish lines and the sense of accomplishment that have strengthened my body and spirit.
Have I experienced all that for the last time? I just don’t know. Until I know more, I am stillarunner, but a solo runner. We’ll talk after a vaccine is developed.