Runners, On Your Mark!

The races are beginning to happen!  For five months most everything has been virtual, but intrepid clubs and race directors are taking the plunge.  The reason this can happen is enough is known about how Covid-19 spreads and what can be done to avoid that while holding a race.  The list of precautions and requirements is long and things previously taken for granted, such as water stops, post-race food and awards ceremonies are off the table.  Start times are staggered and a limited number of runners allowed in a wave.  Not perfect for sure, but progress, nonetheless.

One novel approach is a marathon I am helping with on a rail trail in Northern Vermont this Sunday.  It was organized by 62-year old Jim Miller, who has run a sub 3:00 marathon in each of the past five decades, starting in the late 1970s when ran his first sub-3:00 as an 18 year-old.  He’s shooting for six decades, which would put him in select company: only three others in the U.S. have accomplished this.  To be clear, over the years Jim’s bar has been much faster than three hours.  He has run sub-2:20 marathons, participated in the U.S. Olympic Trials and for many years has been ranked the top open and then masters runner in Vermont.  Jim was going to run one of several 2020 marathons that were cancelled.  So he did what he had to do – create one!  There are 11 people signed up to run the USATF-certified course he designed.  Sufficient volunteers and officials will be present to validate the results, should Jim be successful. (Update: Jim did it! He ran 2:53:59 on a cool but windy day. Congratulations!)

That’s one person’s approach to taking the bull by the horns and working within the confines of current conditions.  There are others.  I am helping with a 10K being presented by Green Mountain Athletic Association on September 26, and races of 5K, 5M, and half marathon are being offered by Run Vermont during September and October.  Things are happening!  The reality is much will be learned by staging these races.  Will everything work according to plan?  Unlikely.  But the only way to find out is to try something.  To be clear, nobody involved in these races is thumbing their nose at the coronavirus.  Rather, risks are being taken seriously and provided for.  

The creative process is always an adventure.  Whether it’s creating a road race, starting a business, writing a song, adopting a new training plan, or bringing students back to school for the fall term, the end result can’t be seen.  It might be imagined, and wise people make plans to address various scenarios that might play out.  But often, if not usually, the final result was not pictured in its entirety in advance.  Maybe adjustments made enroute make it seem like the adventurers had a handle on things throughout.  But the most honest usually admit they figured it out as they went along.

So circling back to how this relates to our running as we age, we are each in uncharted territory.  Yes, we have age grade tables that suggest we should slow down at a particular rate each year.  But those are averages.  They don’t take into account health issues we have to deal with or demands in our lives that require focused attention.  In this respect, we are each an Experiment of One.  Many of us probably charted out our 2020 race schedule, which didn’t happen, and set time goals for various distances.  But life in January was much different than now and probably will be different for the foreseeable future.  Bottom line, we’ve had to make adjustments.  We can sort through the unknowns creatively with a positive attitude or resent the need to do this.  The ride will be much smoother if we follow the first path.

Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing runners with bib numbers.  Expect there will be some big smiles on runners’ faces, even if they’re covered by a mask!         

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