After the 20-week training plan that culminated in the 2020 Holland Haven Marathon in mid-September, I had taken a week off before starting a 12-week training plan to continue working on my weaknesses. Maybe it was the cumulative fatigue of nearly 26 weeks of structured training plan OR a rather sudden change in weather (read: arrival of snow and frigid-ish temperatures) OR likely, a combination of both, I was starting to feel a monotonic decrease in motivation to keep up with the workouts in this new plan. My body seemed to take a bit longer than usual to recover from said workouts. Review of training material and chats with friendly mentors re-iterated the benefits of a short self-imposed break before mental burnout and/or physical injury compared to a potentially longer forced break. As a result, I decided to run the 2020 Virtual New York City Marathon in week #5 (or week #26 – if I am counting the first 20-week plan as well), end the plan and take a break to rest and recharge for the upcoming winter.
Had 2020 unfolded as any of the most previous years, I would have run the Illinois Marathon (April) as my target race in Spring and continued to train towards Marquette Marathon (September) with a handful of road and trail running events spread in between. But 2020 has been a year unlike any that I (or most of us) have experienced so far and COVID-19 has led to the postponement (if not cancellation) of a vast majority of races around the world including
- the Summer Olympics in Japan and
- the World Marathon Majors events
- Tokyo – elites-only event in March,
- Boston – moved from April to September as a virtual event,
- London – moved from April to October as an elites-only event and virtual for non-elites,
- Berlin – scheduled for September but cancelled,
- Chicago – virtual event in October, and
- New York City – virtual event in November.
I was/am fully cognizant of the fact that there are more important things in life than training for and running a race. Having friends whose livelihood depends on timing such events made me realize the value of such events beyond just getting another medal or even earning a new PR.
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.
World Marathon Majors event. New York Road Runners (NYRR), the parent organization caring for this marathon, provided an option to earn a guaranteed non-complimentary entry in 2020. All I had to do was sign up for a virtual marathon (i.e., run 26.2 miles in a single activity along my chosen course) within a certain window of time, tag it as a race in Strava and wait for NYRR officials to verify it. So, I had signed up and expected to make this virtual marathon the last race of the 2019 calendar year. I was content with training towards 2019 Chicago Marathon and looked forward to being a part of the world’s biggest road marathon in 2020.
2019 Whitefish Point Marathon (Paradise, MI) and would have bested my then best time of 3:35:46. But a more rewarding opportunity had presented itself in the second half. I had no regret (I still don’t) accepting it and finishing with a time of 3:49:25. Teetering a few seconds per mile (or about a second for every 400 meters) on the wrong side of my then threshold pace in 2019 Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN) had me on track for a similar finish time through mile 18. Once over the cliff, I had bonked hard and had ridden the struggle bus for the final 8 miles … eventually finishing in a time of 3:46:16. Though I was somewhat disappointed knowing that I had the potential for a faster finish, both were times – a year or so ago – that I’d have gladly kissed anybody’s feet to have earned. And the process of training for and participating in both these events were a memorable set of experiences on several fronts.