2020 sure has been an interesting year. It slammed on the breaks causing us to slow WAY down. It opened my eyes to what has been missing in my life that brings me so much joy…human connection and racing. It forced us to sit in the uncomfortable for SO LONG, but you know that?! The uncomfortable is where growth happens, so if nothing else, we are growing A LOT this year! And in some areas, it’s about damn time!
Cliff Notes Version: Saturday I got to race for the first time since February. SO much is different, but I’m SO GRATEFUL for the opportunity to race safely! This was my first 1/2 marathon EVER that I ran the ENTIRE thing without taking one walking step. I kept reminding myself that #IGETTO do this and I have no idea when I’ll get to race again, so I was going to push myself even when it became uncomfortable, which it did.
The race directors at the Hillbilly Hike 1/2 marathon put on a very safe race with the following Covid guidelines in place:
- each athlete had to fill out a Covid survey online 24 hours before racing
- masks were required before and after (I wore mine for the first 4 miles and every time I went through an aid station or if I was by others while running)
- athletes were spread 6 feet apart in the starting “corral” that extended for an eternity
- 2 athletes started every 5 seconds to spread athletes out for social distancing
- there was no medal distribution at the finish line (finisher medals were placed in a brown paper bag with a banana, cookie, and granola bar that athletes picked up off of a table)
- spectators were not allowed to congregate at the start/finish area
- this year the race route was changed from a point-to-point format (requiring buses to shuttle athletes to the start) to an out-and-back format
- I carried my own water for this race so I didn’t have to interact with volunteers at the aid stations
- Bonus safety measure…Mother Nature provided us with 20+ mph winds so there was very little risk of Covid droplets from others
Longer Version: As I was preparing to start the race, my anxiety was REALLY high and the voices in my head were battling back-and-forth. “Should I really be racing?! We are outside, spread apart, and the race directors have put lots of Covid guidelines in place for the safety of everyone. Am I doing everything I can to be safe in the pandemic?! I am wearing my buff and I’m following the Covid guidelines. Maybe I should just not show up to the start line and go home. You are here and ready to race, so get your butt to the start line. Once you get started, you’ll be fine.”
As I approached the start line, I was told to wait until the clock read “8:04:30” to start. There was no gun going off, there was no countdown, there was no “ready, set, go”, there was nothing but me deciding to cross the start line and begin running.
It was a BEAUTIFUL morning with temps near 55*F at the start + sunny and VERY windy (20-30 mph winds with gusts up to 40 mph from the south). I kept my buff over my face for the first 4 miles as there were more athletes around than I was comfortable with (that is one thing that needs to be done differently in the future…have people line up according to the pace they plan to run instead of just randomly line up). Eventually we were spread out enough that I pulled my buff down and only put it back up when I went through an aid station or passed other athletes. With the strong winds, I felt fairly confident that if there were any Covid droplets in the air, they wouldn’t stick around for long.
As I ran, I was reminded that I “bring my own energy” and I could continue to let my anxiety dictate my race or I could enjoy and be GRATEFUL for the opportunity to race again! I hopped on the gratitude train and rode it to the end. I was grateful to be racing again. I was grateful for the beautiful weather. I was grateful to be racing again. I was grateful that the Iron Hippie had come to support me. I was grateful to be racing again. I was grateful to see the Iron Hippie and Jersey (our youngest girl) at a few different places cheering me on. I was grateful to be racing again. I was grateful to see other athletes I knew. I was grateful to be racing again.
Around mile 10 it got hard. My legs were screaming at me…maybe I had been pushing too hard (is there such a thing?!), maybe it was the lack of run training, maybe it was the 70+ mile bike ride two days ago, maybe it was my brain telling my legs they were more tired than they really were. At this point, I hadn’t taken any walk breaks and I committed to myself that I was going to run the rest of this race. This is also when the self talk game came on strong! “You are going to run every step of this race! This would be the first race that you’ve run every step. Push hard! Who knows when I will actually get to race again?! Stay strong! You can do this! Smile! You GET TO RACE!” This is also where I started to run a mile for different people in my life that inspire me.
As I got close to the finish line, the gratitude I had for racing was overwhelming…tears in my eyes, fatigue in my legs, happiness in my heart, fuel in my soul. All was right in the world…even if briefly. I had missed this! I had missed racing! While this wasn’t a PR race, it was everything I needed in this moment!