Much has happened in the last many months. I separated from my partner and started living on my own (with the kids half of the time). I picked up extra job responsibilities, including a higher teaching load at the college. I started running more aggressively, training for a late spring marathon. And then a pandemic hit, and I found myself like many of you—working from home, spending much less time in the outside world, and suddenly finding my runs to be the most fortifying nourishment for my spirit during these trying times. Facing cancellations of many spring half marathons, and now almost certain that my June Tunnel Marathon will be the next to go, my running buddy and I decided to go big and train up for a mountainous 50K—our own devised route—at the start of the summer. We recently executed a 22-mile training run on Chuckanut, and I am feeling more confident by the day that we will run 31 and some change by June without issue. In my stay-home (except for outdoor recreation) haze, I have become a dedicated cross trainer—lifting weights, using my rowing machine, and doing a lot of push-ups. I am determined to come out of COVID-19 stronger than I went into it.
If the last half of the year has taught me to appreciate anything, it is the temporary nature of wherever we may find ourselves each day. Savoring the very best days, because they will end. Letting go of the very worst days, because they will not be lived again. Through the stress of private life transitions and global life disruptions, running remains my steadfast outlet for relief and growth. Knowing that I can scale thousands of feet over two dozen miles and return to tell the tale grounds me in the possibility of my own resilience. I believe we all have this potential within ourselves—perhaps not with running, specifically, but to hit growth mindset potently through a challenging activity that is desired. Even on the darkest and coldest days, something inside of me compels me to rouse at the sound of my alarm, lace up my shoes, and travel some miles. This time I spend traversing the ground provides me with the most sacred sanctuary to explore any dimension of my thoughts and worries. A blooming magnolia bush or the flame of a pileated woodpecker in the trees catches my eye and weaves my heart deeper into the natural wonder surrounding me. I feel small, and I feel expansive. I feel freedom.
In some ways, the cancellation of these races is a liberating experience. Other than with my appropriately socially-distant trail buddy, I run alone and for myself. The practice is truly only about what I want to do, what I can tempt myself to accomplish without the presence of external validation. The stark reminder that life is finite motivates me to push myself to see what geography my body can master on its own two feet. When I see other runners, I am hopeful, and when I return home, I am reset.