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Making Lemonade Out of Lemons: A Runner’s Perspective on this COVID-19 Year

by CJ Hitz December 03, 2020 3 min read

Athletic woman doing stretches on a downed tree in the middle of a forest area.

It’s not likely that any of us is going to soon forget the year 2020 even though we all would love to put it behind us. If ever there was a year of unexpected twists and turns, this has been it.

Back in January, few of us even considered the possibility that we might find ourselves fully immersed in a worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19. Our world has been forced to scramble and adjust in all kinds of ways. There’s really no “pandemic manual” that perfectly guides us through the process. The scientists themselves have been in scramble mode while working on solutions.

As a national class competitive masters runner, I think I speak for the running community at large when I say this has been a difficult year for race goals and dreams. Many of us had high hopes for our racing in 2020 only to see those hopes dashed as race after race was forced to cancel due to various restrictions.

One of the races I had looked forward to running for the third time was the legendary Mt. Washington Road Race in New Hampshire. With the tagline “Only One Hill”, the course ascends over 4600 feet over 7.6 miles on the Mt. Washington auto road. This 60th running was to be held June 20th, four days after my 47th birthday.

I have a good friend, Simon, who has actually won the race twice in his long career. He had one more shot at trying to set the 50-54 age group record. Unfortunately, since the race was cancelled, he’ll never get that opportunity since he turns 55 this next March. Chalk it up as another “COVID casualty.”

From the Boston Marathon to the small local 5k, races of all sizes had to postpone or cancel altogether. Though it seems like what we might refer to as a “first world” problem, we runners still had to grieve these small losses. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears in training wasted.

Or was it?

Lemonade

For me personally, I realized early on that my complaining wasn’t going to do a whole lot of good. As my wife can attest, I had to vent some frustration as I initially heard of races canceling. But after the first few cancellations, it no longer surprised me. As I began to see the writing on the wall that races would be cancelled in droves, I decided to reevaluate my training.

Beginning in May, I dialed back my training in both volume and intensity to conserve energy. Rather than waste precious bodily resources by training hard for cancelled future races, I decided to simply run easy for exercise, hike more with my wife, and spend more time reading good books. I also focused more on writing which I enjoy.

Did I lose some fitness? Absolutely. Did I gain a few pounds? Affirmative. But I don’t regret any of it. I knew I would eventually resume increased mileage and more focused workouts. I would live to fight another day.

If some of us are honest, we can spend a lot of physical, emotional, and mental energy on the races we add to our calendars. There’s something about signing up for a race that causes us to revolve our whole lives around the day it’s scheduled. Many of us hardly know what to do with ourselves without tangible goals.

Over the past 12 weeks since I picked up my training again, I’ve found myself appreciating every step a little more than I did pre-pandemic. I think my 47 year-old body appreciated the extra rest, adrenal rejuvenation, and mental reset brought about by the long racing break.

The next opportunity we have to toe the starting line of a race, we’re going to share a stronger bond with our fellow running community. Though we’ve all tasted our fair share of lemons in 2020, there’s no need to dwell upon it.

Those sour lemons are going to eventually produce some sweet and refreshing lemonade that each of us savors with every sip.

Cheers to being grateful and supporting one another through anything we may face ahead!