by Christine Myers
My Garmin sent me a reminder to “breathe” (an indicator that my heart rate was elevated from stress) as I fought back tears. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This couldn’t be happening, I told myself over and over as I struggled to grasp the words of the text message on my iPhone screen. Like a wound unable to heal, I could not understand the breadth of the news I had just received.
When my coach, Mathew Nark, texted me that the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, originally scheduled for March 22nd had been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns, I cried in the middle of the restaurant where my mother and I were. And when I say “cried” I mean it felt like an ocean was veering high tide inside of my chest. Little did I know, that lunch with mother, would be the last taste (pun intended) of normalcy that I would experience until further notice.
I, like many other runners from all across the globe, had their spring season stolen. I had received the news only a week before race day. At first, I was furious, I had run upward of 600 miles this training cycle. 600 miles for what felt like nothing. Twenty mile workouts done in sub zero temperatures, 5 a.m. alarms, doubles, strength sessions, all of it for nothing. Or so I thought.
This is for every runner who feels as if a layer of gauze has been wrapped around their heart. For every runner who recently has sat at the foot of their bed with their head between their hands and exhaled in frustration: it wasn’t for nothing. Each step that you ran in preparation for your cancelled race had an inherent purpose. Each mile challenged you: it inspired you to push at things that say pull and pull things that say push. Every run had a valuable takeaway, whether it was noticing the owl on the power line or a memorable conversation with your training partner (Nate Laing, this goes out to you). With respect to running, the destination is never final- for us distance runners, the biggest challenge is survival. Much like “the wall” in a marathon, we shall persevere through this, too.
Running has always been about community, compassion and coming together- values that the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated as the necessary weapons to fight back. This is not the “end”- this is a revolution. Yes, disappointment may still linger surrounding race cancellations, but this extra time can allow for runners to circle back to the very reasons why they started running. For me, it was a vessel of hope. During a time where the world feels as if it is on fire, the concept of hope is one that must be nurtured.
Each morning before my online classes start, I still lace up. I still execute my workouts to a T. I lift in my garage with dumbbells - I am not giving up. My time to be reunited physically with my team, Nark Running and Strength, and to race, will come. The uncertainty of that timeline is nerve-wracking, but I am trying my best to let it entice me instead of terrify me. If anything, the space between me, my teammates, and the start line has only strengthened the appreciation that I have for this sport. You can take the girl out of the race, but you cannot take the race out of the girl. I refuse to stop running, I refuse to stop believing- I hope you can say the same.