I'm a Multi-Marathoner, but Here's Why I'm Embracing a Race-Free Year

As POPSUGAR editors, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. If you buy a product we have recommended, we may receive affiliate commission, which in turn supports our work.

I was sitting on a plane returning to the US in mid-March when I got the email the half marathon I had been training for was canceled. I had just spent two weeks overseas and was set to run my 20th half marathon a mere seven days after returning when it became clear my home of New York City was about to go into lockdown and there would be no races for a long time.

As I spent my two weeks in quarantine like all travelers returning home, I reassured myself that my dream marathon, the London Marathon in April, was still a possibility. Flash forward a few weeks, and my marathon had been postponed to October, a date I was positive was a safe bet. Now, with the news the London Marathon has been canceled this year — along with every other in-person race I typically fill up my weekends with — I found myself race-free for the first time in six years.

At first, I was somewhat relieved. Training has always been a huge time commitment — one I love, but a challenging one nonetheless. But then my relief turned to sadness as it sunk in that the races I look forward to, work toward, and plan my years around simply wouldn't exist this year. The life goal I had to continue my road to becoming a six star finisher (aka someone who completes all six Marathon Majors: London, New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and Tokyo) was going to be delayed at least a year, if not more.

As all this sank in, I began to struggle with my sport and my relationship with running in general. Without my races and my goals, what was running to me? If I wasn't chasing a new PR or posting my accomplishments to Instagram, was I still a runner? I soon realized that running was more than an activity or social bragging moment; it was part of who I was regardless of any race on the calendar. So I continued to run and focus on the sport I loved so much — it just looked a lot different.

I ran slower to enjoy my scenery and explore new areas of my neighborhood. I tried new forms of exercise outside of running to challenge my mind and body in ways I had always neglected before. I even started run-walking just to remind myself that not everything has to be a race to the finish. Sometimes it's enough to be healthy and strong enough to move my body. In fact, what my newly free calendar truly taught me is that I had forgotten why I started running in the first place: because I liked it. I never started running to be fast, finish races, or post cool finisher pictures on social media. I ran because it made me feel good. And now without the pressure of all of the above weighing on me, I'm able to reconnect with that feeling again.

Although I'll miss my races more than I can express, I'm using this time to set new personal fitness goals and concentrate on the health of my body and mind so when it comes time to lace up my UA HOVR™ Phantom 2 RUNANYWR Running Shoes ($150) for my first race back, I'll be stronger than ever.