There are few times in our lives where events occur that shake the world on a global level. For the most part, we go on about our lives pursuing our careers and passions as well as adventures with family and friends.
With the onset of the covid pandemic in March of 2020, all of that came to what felt like a screeching halt, as the world shut down and we all faced an uncertain future at the hands of a novel virus full of unknowns. All facets of life were affected: employment, gatherings of family and friends, shopping, and recreating outdoors. For many of us, running and racing encompasses a large role in our lives serving many purposes: It may be for mental and physical health, feeding your competitive spirit, finding where your limits lie or, perhaps for many, it is being part of a greater community of like-minded people, the tribe, if you will.
As race after race was canceled, for many, this led to feelings of anxiety and even depression. Racing provides focus and discipline to train. A goal, something to look forward to and accomplish. Something to pull you out of bed, when you’d rather stay under the covers. It was a tough pill to swallow as people were trying to hold on to some hope for normalcy or stress relief to deal with the drastic change to our everyday lives.
To fill some of the void, virtual races began to pop up in all sorts of forms, everything from racking up Everest levels of vert to long-distance hauls that would take some months to complete. It wasn’t ideal, but it was something. Fortunately, as the year progressed, a glimmer of light shone at the end of the tunnel. A number of states began to give the go-ahead for racing to resume with limited fields and protocols in place to ensure the safety of all involved. Races were going to look different than we were used to, but for those craving the competition, seeing friends, travel, it was exciting times.
First impressions were a bit surreal. It felt part sci-fi, part family reunion. People were excited to be out and see each other, but afraid to get too close or touch each other. You only saw eyes, you couldn’t see full expressions, which at this point, we were more than accustomed to. But it still felt awkward in this setting.
As race directors counted down the seconds, though, and the runners took off from the line, all seemed right in the world
again. The sinewy trails, the sight of other runners in front of or behind you. Conversations with friends. Soaking in the beauty all around. Volunteers at aid stations. All the sights and sounds you dream about were reality once again, and it was sublime. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something. How much you need something, until it is taken away. While the finish lines were devoid of the usual crowds of family, friends and strangers, they still had that feeling of coming home.