One of the overused yet accurate words of the year is "unprecedented." Because of these, dare I say, unprecedented times, many of our favorite fitness activities have looked a lot different this year. For me, that means my racing schedule has changed. Typically, my spring and summer would be riddled with races of every distance culminating in a marathon in the fall.
This year, I was set to run the 2020 London Marathon, which was originally slated for April but was delayed until October. Although it's the last of the major marathons yet to officially postpone until 2021, the chances of any major marathons happening this year are very slim. And although I was itching to get the chance to walk away with my very first international race medal, have another shot at a PR, and take a trip to London, the thing I've been missing most about races and what I was looking forward to most about this year's marathon may not be the typical answer: the people.
Over the last few years, when I started picking up my race schedule and running marathons particularly, I learned there was a lot about the racing experience that I loved. But some of the most unexpected and meaningful things to me were the connections I'd make with other runners on race day.
While waiting for the start of my very first marathon, I was the most nervous I had ever been in my life. Whether my nerves were evident or he simply was relieving some prerace stress himself, a fellow runner started talking to me. He asked me how many marathons I had done (none) and shared he had done several. He told me he was from London, and we discussed the upcoming route and our training schedules before waving goodbye and wishing each other luck. He was the last person I spoke to for the next two hours until I saw my friends at the halfway mark.
And that wasn't the only time I've made a connection with a fellow runner during a marathon. The following year, while waiting to get to the start line, two other women and I bonded over how miserable it was to be standing in the pouring rain to willingly run for the next few hours but how excited we'd be to cross the finish. We discussed our respective cities and our dream marathons. Although we were filtered into separate start corrals, an hour into the race, I saw one of them and waved to my new friend. Twenty-six miles don't seem so daunting when you have someone to wave to.
Most recently, I ran the Chicago marathon and found myself running side by side with a runner. I noticed we were running about the same speed and realized that if I started slipping, I could always count on him to keep me on pace. We ran like this for nearly 16 miles before losing each other. It wasn't until later that night when the runner, who remembered my race number and my American Cancer Society fundraiser shirt, connected with me on Instagram, noting he had made the journey all the way up from Mexico City and thanked me for keeping him motivated and on pace to his best time. We are still friends to this day and speak weekly.
Although I'll deeply miss my opportunity to experience the roars of another marathon, the chance to add another medal to my collection, the fun of laying out my favorite race apparel and sneakers the night before, and the thrill of seeing my training pay off, I'll truly miss meeting fellow runners from across the globe. Never have I felt so empowered and connected to my sport than when I'm meeting someone else who is also just as scared, excited, and motivated as me at a race.
Running is a solo sport, but racing is a community. I'll personally wait as long as necessary to get to join my racing community again, safely.