Runners’ Corner column: Loneliness of the 2020 marathon runner
Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D.
That’s the mantra of Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray. Having already faced nearly every possible crisis in the event management business, Dave knows you need to have a back-up plan to your back-up plan in order to have something lined up for nearly every contingency. Yes, nearly every contingency.
Welcome to 2020’s version of “never saw that coming!” and that’s the coronavirus pandemic. But imaginable or not, it was the responsibility of Dave and the folks at the BAA to wrestle with a solution to this crisis that would be fair, safe and realistic. The current plan calls for “Boston in the Fall,” which will be held on Sept. 14. The 124th edition was supposed to be held on April 20.
But the Boston Marathon wasn’t the only event struggling with this crisis. The first to cancel was the Tokyo Marathon; then the Great Wall Marathon; Rome cancelled; London postponed to Oct. 4; Flying Pig postponed to Oct. 11; Paris postponed to Oct. 18; and Barcelona postponed to Oct. 25. By St. Patrick’s Day virtually every local race was cancelled or was postponed as the “Stay at Home” advisories were issued, and now even the venerable Summer Olympics will be postponed for a year.
So, runners, just like Dave McGillivray, also had to develop a plan A, B, C and D.
For those planning to run a spring marathon, weeks of intensive training were already in the books, but the likelihood there will be a replacement event in the near future appears to be slim. Ongoing training is compromised with the closure of gyms and the social distancing limitations of coached workouts.
Realizing the full impact upon training regimens has led most runners to go through the five stages of “runner’s grief.”
First is denial. When the suggestion was made that there was a possibility of cancelling Boston and other running events, Facebook was filled with disbelief that this could even be considered, because after all isn’t running a healthy activity?
Then, there’s anger. The question was raised by many, on how dare race directors consider eliminating events after they put in months of preparation.
Bargaining and depression came next. The ban on these events must be for only international level events, right? Let’s find a more local spring marathon. Surely, the Vermont City Marathon, for example, will be fine. Depressingly, all options began to disappear.
Here we are now at the acceptance stage, and with acceptance has come a realization of how fortunate runners are to have an outlet to help alleviate the stress of this crisis. Perhaps large group runs are off limits, but I see scores and scores of runners and walkers throughout the day either running alone or in small groups that are six-feet apart to adapt to the new norms that were created to slow down the spread of this virus.
As a fellow runner, I have found one of the blessings this current circumstance has gifted us is the opportunity to change the focus of our runs. Training is taking a backseat to mindful running.
For the time being, race pace is irrelevant. Weekly mileage is not critical. Now is a great time to fully immerse into the joys of running by opening up all our senses. Rather than concentrating on our smart watches that remind us how far, how fast and how many steps we’ve earned, we can now enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of spring.
My runs during these past few weeks have been a joy, as I explore new routes, while seeing so many folks who now have the time to go for a walk with spouses and children, and not worry about how fast they got it done.
This crisis we now face will end at some point. In the meantime, however, we have been granted a unique opportunity to de-stress, get outdoors and enjoy whatever the weather delivers, while recognizing the gift that a healthy lifestyle can give.
So, whether you are a finely tuned competitive runner, a modest racer, a novice jogger or a walker, get outside and enjoy this opportunity of guilt-free pleasure.
Stay well and wash your hands!
Tom Licciardello is a founding member of the Merrimack Valley Striders. Licciardello has participated in 35 Boston’s and 88 marathons altogether, and is a BAA Boston Marathon volunteer. He can be reached at email@example.com.