Grateful for Running, but have I run my Last Race?

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.

Credit: Dreamstime.com

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.

10 comments

  1. Thanks for your reflective post, Mary Lou. Your writing skills to the fore! I don’t run (as you well know) AND I enjoy each of your musings.

  2. Well said Mary Lou. I miss racing too. It was so much fun. I enjoyed running your Capitol 10 miler and helping out as a volunteer. Quite memorable was the day we stood out in pouring rain, making sure the runners ran the right direction. It was fun. The runners didn’t seem to mind it either. Regarding still running in our mid 70s, I have accepted that “just finishing” a few runs each week is an accomplishment. it has been hard to feel like a racer when the pace says “tortoise”. Unfortunately, the virus has forced us to redefine the word “distance”. I’m hopeful that we will once again be comfortable running around Wildwood and sitting together at the Front Street Diner for breakfast. Hopefully the diner will survive. Us too. In the meantime, keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

    • Andy, I miss Wildwood. It is far too buy now with many people in stay-at-home taking their families and pups out for a walk. I look forward to the day we can once again enjoy runner friendship and stories around the Front Street Diner table. Thanks to Brad for instigating this group.

    • Great and thoughtful commentary ML. I am still in Idaho where I can hike and ride bikes as long as I avoid the busy rail trail on weekends.
      Tuesday mornings are sad for me, too. Will we even be able to congregate in our close, rowdy breakfast group again?

      • Martha, it is interesting that life is a little like musical chairs right now. We are all glued to the place we were when the music stopped, or when COVIN hit. You are usually back in the area by now. I have other friends who haven’t returned to their homes here. I had just returned from Hawaii days before all of this hit. We will have to mark the day we can once again be a table of rowdy aging athletes.

  3. Mary Lou: Definitely well said. This is sad to read though and I hope it won’t come to it. I have hope that things will turn around for large events. Probably not this year but hopefully next. I enjoy reading your writings and musings so please keep ’em coming. Be well!

    Harris

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