When asked to write the 2020 iRun finale, I knew it would be a challenge. Even Oxford Dictionaries found it difficult to summarize 2020, describing it as “a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word.” So it lived up to one of its words of the year, “unprecedented,” by choosing a list of words instead of just one.
Pandemic, virtual, social distancing, quarantine, isolation, lockdown, unmute, Zoom, the new normal, remotely, bubble, personal protective equipment…these words have taken new meaning in 2020. So here’s a reflection on what some of these words have meant in my running life, our running lives, and how I aim to focus on the good to provide hope and faith in a better tomorrow, saying goodbye to 2020 and welcoming 2021:
January was a rough start to the year as I continued waiting to learn about what happened to a female athlete and my now former coach. The story was being researched as far back as 2006 and dozens of people were being contacted for interviews. I ran the Robbie Burns 8K as a rust buster to start my season.
February is when the story was finally published. I was heartbroken and disturbed, to name only a few of my many emotions. It rocked the entire Canadian running community. I can’t write a simple statement to summarize a positive outcome from this, but will state the words she said after the story was made public, “I am not working from this place of anger or resentment, and that I really just want healing and positive change to come from this.
March is when I ran my second and final official 2020 race, the Chilly Half Marathon. Because I was to do the New York City Half Marathon two weeks later, Reid Coolsaet, Olympian and coach, had me use it as a workout with 2K hard and 1K moderate. It went well and I was looking forward to testing my fitness in the Big Apple. Twelve days later and the kids’ one week break was at the beginning of what would be six months, and we were quickly learning more about what the World Health Organization had just declared as a pandemic. Spring races were cancelled and the Tokyo Olympics were postponed by the International Olympic Committee.
April 20th did not mark my 20th marathon, in Boston. In-person races were being completed as virtual races, and while some runners decided to call it a season to rest for another, or take advantage of the time to recover from a nagging injury, others were gearing up for personal bests at time trials and other equally impressive performances. Across the world where countries were enforcing strict rules to help control the virus, runners were desperately jogging around their dining room tables, balconies and backyards in the most bizarre yet creative challenges to maintain physical and mental health.
May marked the beginning of a few time trials that would give purpose to my training and put something in my calendar. Homeschooling and Zooming were now routine with many parents feeling the pressure of juggling online learning and working from home. The simplicity of running provided some normalcy and an output for those trying to make this new life work. Many completed events to support very worthwhile causes; mine included #NovaScotiaStrong for the victims of the Portapique mass murder and #IRunwithMaud to support the BIPOC community.
June was likely the month that most parents completely gave up on monitoring screen time. Some simply needed the time to themselves while others were fed-up with boredom and nowhere to go. I finished my three-month home teaching contract with my own kids, praying school would resume again in the fall. Fall marathons were being cancelled. Front line and health care workers would continue being our heroes.
July and August were fairly normal months for our family with much time spent at our cabin. Meeting up for a few runs with one or two friends made my routine feel a bit more normal as the socially isolating runs were getting a bit boring and lonely. Masks became mandatory in public spaces while race directors continued to think of ways to survive.
September was the big test of something new—children returning to school in cohorts, wearing masks. Ontario officially announced its second wave at the end of the month and continued measures were being taken to keep schools open. Many parents would opt for learning at home. Runners took advantage of the weather and continued completing time trials and again replacing marathons with their virtual substitutions. After my own summer of fairly non-specific training, I completed decent 5K and 10K time trials then switched gears to prepare for my first ultra marathon, which would be on the trails. While I thought I’d finish my marathon chapter before starting this one, I figured it was the perfect time to get out of my comfort zone and learn something new, which would keep me running for longer.
October included the marathon relay challenge created by Athletics Canada and the Canada Running Series to provide athletes a fun and competitive virtual event and opportunity for community connection. I joined forces with three other women from Bayfront Endurance, the group I was helping lead in Hamilton with Reid Coolsaet and Anthony Romaniw, and completed my own 42.2 km on the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon weekend.
November had my debut ultra trail run in place of the New York City Marathon, one of the few World Marathon Majors left on my bucket list with Tokyo and Chicago. I was able to join a small group from Oakville to run a route similar to the Sulphur Springs trail race while staying physically distanced and following other protocols. The course was marked, equipped with aid stations, and I was happy to be doing what I love with beautiful trees and blankets of leaves around me. The 54K in 5:04 with a 1,224 m elevation gain gave me a new start to something exciting, leaving me ready for more. I have a drawer full of medals I’ve earned over the years, but this 2020 medal will have a meaning of its own. A week after completing this event my family said goodbye to our sweet dog of nearly 16 years. I wasn’t running, the days were cloudy and dark, and the house was quiet and empty. It was tough and the first time I felt this way in a long time with the heaviness of the last eight months. Getting outside, walking, planning small tasks, and simply letting time heal was my best way to recover.
December will be a relaxed month as I steadily progress back to running. Reid and I have already discussed a spring goal that will have me excited to resume training in the new year. The Christmas season will look and feel different for all of us but we will continue to modify and make the best of it by creating new traditions and ways of doing things. Throughout the month I will be supporting the Canadian Endurance Sport Alliance to show how important our racing community and industry is to Canada. It’s important that I give back to a community that has given so much to me. I must help them survive. Please join me by sharing what races mean to you using #StartLineImpact with your best race memories while tagging your local government officials, brands, and running news media.
I conclude by continuing to encourage a message of gratitude—being thankful, appreciative and kind. Let us have hope as we desire and trust for a better year, and faith as we must believe in what we cannot see.