Smile because it happened.

We are in the strangest and most uncertain time in our lives.

In a matter of weeks, we have lost our sense of “normal” and “security.” There is no doubt that our world will not be the same after coronavirus is contained. There will be a new “normal” that will involve major changes to many things we knew and loved.  

I know road races and endurance sports will not be the same. Some races will be able to adapt; some will not. Some athletes may decide that it’s time to hang up the laces. Some race directors will not be able to withstand the financial losses, and some will decide it is time to pursue other business interests.

Today was particularly rough or emotional day for many athletes. Today would have been the Boston Marathon. Many of my friends were to going to race or volunteer there.

This past weekend would have been the Star Wars Half Marathon races at Walt Disney World. I would have been there, along with many of my friends. Instead, thousands of Disney cast members are starting their week coming to peace with being furloughed.

I’ve talked to several race director friends of mine who are trying to reschedule events and salvage their remaining races, while keeping their families safe and taking care of their personal needs. They are trying to stay positive and are thankful that the vast majority of athletes have been considerate and compassionate.

During this time of uncertainty and this giant global pause, I’m looking back at what I got to do in life, and I’m smiling because it happened.

I won't say the “don’t cry because it’s over” line of that famous quote right now. Crying is healthy. It’s okay to be sad, angry, scared, or upset at this time. People have had their lives shattered. Family members and friends have passed away. People have lost their jobs. Businesses that have closed don’t know if they can re-open. Crying is part of the processing of everything going on. It’s okay. I’d be scared if we all didn’t cry a little at this time.

Also, it's not "over."  Not yet.  Right now we're on pause.  I don't know what life will look like for amateur and professional athletes in a year, let alone a couple of months.  Maybe one part of our lives will be over, but if that's the case, it is clearing room for new and wonderful things to come.

While we may not be able to participate in road races (and in some cases, safely train) right now, what I can do is look back with gratitude at all the amazing opportunities I have had because of endurance sports.

If we need reasons or inspiration to smile right now, look through your stack of old race bibs, through your pile of race medals, or through your collection of race shirts.

I’m grateful that I have the physical strength to participate in sports.  I'm grateful for the people that introduced me to road races, charity fundraising teams, and race scheduling and travel planning.  I'm grateful I got to figure out how to travel for free or cheap and save money on road races and endurance events, and that I had the chance teach others and help them save money too.  I'm grateful I got to do the 52 half marathons in 365 days challenge three times, and do it better each time with what I've learned.  

I'm grateful to those that taught me how to find the right shoes, clothing and nutrition. I'm grateful to everyone that room shared or ride shared, that waited for me to finish, or made room for me at a post-race lunch table.  I'm grateful for everyone that joined me along the way, either in person or online.

I’m grateful that I was able to travel to so many beautiful and special places.  Road races have brought me to amazing sites and destinations all over the United States  I would have never seen or thought of visiting otherwise.  The list is incredible: Anaheim; Baltimore; Hershey Park; Portland (both coasts); Washington, DC; New Orleans; San Antonio; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Miami; Key West; St Pete; Tampa; Orlando; San Diego; Sedona; Minneapolis; Denver; Fargo; Green Bay; Memphis; Virginia Beach; Seattle; New York; and on.

I have crossed paths with amazing, kind and compassionate people I would have never met otherwise.  I have gotten more exercise than I ever would have without the motivation of a finish line or a new destination. I have done things I would have never dreamed of.  I got to inspire and be inspired.  My life is better because of everywhere I've been and everyone I've met along the way.

And for all this, I am smiling.


Mount Desert Island Half Marathon

Newburyport Half Marathon

Shamrock Half Marathon

Mad Half Marathon

Ghost of Seattle Half Marathon

 

I’m smiling because:

  • I had the opportunity to volunteer for and run so many wonderful nonprofit organizations, and I had the chance to help people. 
  • I got to raise over $25K for 501c3 nonprofits over the years.
  • I got to coach people through their first 5Ks.
  • I got to cheer on and high-five thousands of runners and walkers in road races as a spectator.
  • I, the person who sucked at sports in high school, have completed 574 road races of all distances, including ultramarathons.
  • I got to participate in Run Disney races in Florida and California several times.  Yes, the races really were magical.
  • I got to help create and run an amazing racing club.

2014 New York City Marathon race expo


I definitely miss the California Run Disney races.

New York City Half




  • My sister volunteered at the mile 25 water stop for the New York City Marathon the year I did it, and they let her walk the last mile with me in Central Park.
  • I got to be a pace group leader in half marathons and help people through their first races or help them hit new personal records.
  • I met so many amazing people through races who have become life-long friends.

There is so much to be thankful for, and so many reasons to smile.

What we are going through now is like everything else in life- it's temporary.  It's hard because there is no "end date." There is no light at the end of the tunnel yet.  But we will get there.

We don't know what races will look like if and when they come back, but I can already see many race directors brainstorming on how to continue to offer events again, and what they can do to keep themselves, participants, volunteers and public safety staff safe.


So Now What?

I had an amazing experience at my last race this year in March 2020 at the Celebrate Life Half Marathon in Rock Hill, NY.  The day was incredible and about as perfect as a race could be from start line to post-race conversations.  I have done this race as an athlete and a pacer several times.  This year, something in the air was different, and it felt like both a "reunion" and a "closure" weekend.

The race director is an incredible person who volunteers her time and energy to coordinate this race, which is a 100 percent charity event that supports cancer patients in Sullivan County, NY.  The race is tough, hilly and emotional, as athlete pass a row of signs purchased in memory or honor of those who have faced cancer.

Our club had a great pre-race dinner full of laughter and smiles.  The race day weather was gorgeous- a beautiful sky, no wind, and signs of spring coming.  I got to help honor a wonderful friend who had recently passed away from a multi-year battle with cancer.  It was the kind of race day that validated why so many of us fell in love with this sport in the first place.  We all went home satisfied with our race results, and happy that we shared great times with friends old and new.



Walt Disney is credited with the quote: “I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.”

Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls decided to end her time with the show on a high note, feeling the show had run its course and it was time to go out with a positive ending and high ratings. 

If we don’t see road races come back for a while, or if for my own safety I feel it’s time to end my participation in this sport or take some extended time off, I'm okay with it.  I can make peace with it. I’ve been so lucky.  I've done more than I ever set out to accomplish.  I've had more "races ending on a high note" than I can count!

If this isn't my last race and events return, on the plus side- at least I'll be well-rested!

There will be positive new changes, new chances, new experiences, and new dreams to pursue after all this is over. We’re seeing some of this now. We’re seeing neighbors check on each other again. We’re seeing people review their lives and their possessions, and discard what is not serving them. We’re seeing the best of humanity outshine the worst. The air is clearer than it’s been in decades because of drops in pollution. People are supporting local businesses and communities more. 

The new world will be a different place.  While we don't know what it will look like, for now, I can look back at where I've came from, and what (literal) finish lines I have crossed.  And I can smile.

I can recall in amazement the skilled detailed planning that got me across the country on multiple weekends without a hitch.  I can smile that I did crazy things like hopping on a plane on a Friday to do two races in two different states in one weekend, get on a plane on Sunday night, and be at work on Monday morning. 

I can laugh at races that did not go so well, and remember races that were sheer joy from start to finish.  I can look through race photos and marvel at how absolutely beautiful our country is.  I can go through my giant tubs of race shirts and wear a different one each day while working from home, remembering the great events and everywhere I traveled.



Three rounds of bibs spread out on the bed. I gave up on trying to create a collage of them all.


The bib box.

We might not know what's next, but what a great time to celebrate where we've been and what we've accomplished. And in this time of chaos, we can smile.

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