2020: (Virtual) Illinois and Grandma’s Marathons

We look for (or accept) the things we think we deserve.


If not for the ongoing global pandemic, COVID-19, the Illinois Marathon would have happened on 25th April 2020 and the Grandma’s Marathon would be happening on 20th June 2020. Organizers of the Grandma’s Marathon had sent out the cancellation notice at the end of March. In mid-March, organizers of the Illinois Marathon had only postponed the event to later parts of 2020. But the uncertainties being what they are, they too decided to cancel the 2020 edition. In the grander scheme of things, I believe cancellation aligns well with the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest possible time philosophy, and I sure hope that I get to meet my friends I was supposed to meet at these events again and again. Both events offered a deferment to or registration discount towards a subsequent edition as well as virtual run option. Having had a sneak peak at behind-the-scenes actions in my community’s events, it was an easy decision to go with the virtual run option.

With most, if not all, organized races either cancelled or teetering between postponement and cancellation, my training (proofed by Ray and Stephen) since mid-March has been designed to build a stronger aerobic base. The running-specific portion of this plan officially started three weeks ago and includes higher to me volume at reduced intensity. This plan has been simultaneously serving as a dangling carrot to stay the course while I virtually run across Tennessee with 19,000+ friends (more about it in a few weeks). I was having a particularly easy time procrastinating the 10-mile run on Thursday when I got the Illinois Marathon cancellation news. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I waited a bit longer to complete the virtual run associated with Grandma’s Marathon. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that neither event cared if I ran an exclusive virtual run. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I periodically review my notes from previous training cycles. Taking all these blessings in disguise into account, I chose to do one run to minimize the toll such full length outings take on my body.

Attempt #1: Friday

A quick glance at the weather app showed that the predicted weather seemed to be tailor-made for this long run: low 40s, cloud cover and a gentle breeze. The course was a mostly flat ~10 km loop in Calumet/Laurium. My car would serve as starting area, the aid-station after laps #1, #2 and #3, and the finish chute.

I got to Swedetown Pond by 7 am and started the run shortly afterwards. Weather conditions were identical to what the NOAA supercomputers had predicted. Over the final mile of lap #1, things were changing: there was dense fog; gentle winds were making way for occasional gusts and there were noticeable ripples/waves on Swedetown Pond; temperature had dropped to low-to-mid 30s; a llight drizzle was turning into a heavy downpour with thunder and lightning. Another glance at the weather app suggested that the rain might subside within the hour but winds would continue for few more. After debating the idea of continuing the run, I listened to Andi‘s sound advice (to let it go) and promise (that tomorrow’s weather would be better). As the day progressed, weather conditions got better and thoughts of completing the run resurfaced again. But I held to the comfort of my couch and let that idea go as well … and indulged in some home-made carb loading.


Attempt #2: Saturday

I kept the same loop based course as yesterday but shifted the starting/finishing area from Swedetown Pond to Calumet Lake. The softer 1.50 mile-ish trail that envelopes the latter helped to ease into the run as well serving as the final 3-ish miles with Ashley. Having a definite plan to meet her at 10 am (+/- 5 minutes) shifted the start time back by an hour and helped not goof off during the first 23-ish miles.


The run got off to a pretty start – with a spectacular sunrise above the trail, glassy waters of Calumet Lake and birds (and other fauna) providing the necessary sound effects. The first lap served as a warm up and I completed it (~6.30 miles) in a little over an hour. The second lap, sans Tour de Calumet Lac, included a pause to chat with Pat and his pup on the snowmobile path. I stopped briefly at the car (~12 miles, ~1:50) to shed some layers of clothing and drink some water before marching on.


26.24 mi, 3:58:05, 9:05 min/mile (5:38 min/km), 6.61 mph (10.64 kmph)
Garmin Forerunner 945, Stryd Power Meter, and WP GPX Maps Plugin


The pace for the next 11+ miles picked up without a conscious effort. My HR wasn’t high and breathing wasn’t ragged either. This should have been good news but I kept expecting these miles to be difficult. This mental gymnastics unnecessarily drained my energy and likely stood in the way of just enjoying the run … or pickup the pace a bit more if I really needed it to be difficult. Anyway, I managed to keep it together and reach my car at 10 am. After another short water break and shedding layers, the final 3 miles with Ashley went by at an easy conversational pace I wasn’t used to in a marathon distance run.


Post-run activities included enjoying some immediate nourishment from the Keweenaw Coffee Works with Greens and Dan, and then heading to the greatest fresh water ice bath. In light of completing the run reasonably well and in light of recent learnings, I treated myself to a healthy meal and a tasty beverage from Fitz – which just happened to be next to the ice bath. But a vast majority of Saturday and the day after were spent attempting to understand my inability to be ok with (or in better words, be grateful for) the ease with which the increased pace in later miles had come about. After some brief but meaningful conversations with Laura, Mike and Shannon, a one-line summary of my struggles was something like this:

We look for (or accept) the things we think we deserve.


An explanation was something as follows: The weekly mileage associated with all previous marathon-length runs (races or training runs) had never been more than 50 miles. However, this particular run started with nearly 50 miles already in the bank. So, I was in uncharted territory as far as the weekly mileage went. So, I did what most would do in such a situation: project a past experience to the present … and in turn, expect those later miles to feel more difficult. In other words, I was living in the past and not in the present. In doing so, I was underselling myself and having a hard time accepting the gift that came my way. All this by no means a return to the drawing board to redo the design. If anything, it’s a gentle reminder to be present in the present (or run the mile I am in) and in the words of Shannon, a new tool that I should be able to use when the real races do come calling.

Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timing folks, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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