Life is like a race and I was about to get a mid-race surprise.
The world was waiting for the next big pandemic after the infamous influenza pandemic of the early 1900s, but oddly enough it does not mean we were expecting it or ready. Runners had their routines, their training and races planned and we stood poised with laces tied and running shorts on when COVID-19 made its world-wide debut.
I felt like I had been caught with my running shorts half-way down, stuck in the bush, mid run when people started getting sick and things started shutting down. I had no idea the impact this virus was going to have on me and the world. The pandemic firmly placed me in a spot I was not expecting to be. I had started 2020 with a plan, like I was running a race. I had built my base, got my life and running organized and had plans. I was feeling good.
I suddenly found myself without a job, with my 2020 plans canceled and no races or running events to look forward to. It was a little bit of a shock. I had been on contract with an organization for almost two years waiting to compete for a permanent position. My contract was extended till May and HR was ready to post a competition for the position I was working in. I was posed for some stability and looking forward to pinning down a job was enjoying and had looked hard to find.
My paced slowed and my mind screamed out, trying to get itself around the problem that had suddenly thrown itself in my path. I had seen the possibility coming but the reality hit like red-hot rubbed nipples during a marathon. Unexpected and piercing. I stumbled but I did not fall.
I was a runner who had been tying up my running shoes for over 30 years and I had survived a very dark period of my life and acquired a mental health toolkit and approach to weather hard times. The tools I have do not make things go away but they allow me to find peace, calm and find ways to approach and attack a problem. One of them is running.
Being a runner has taught me that despite all my best efforts and planning, proper nutrition, research and doing all that I can, things still happen. I cannot control everything in life and running. I can however control how I react, how I deal with it and how I am.
Taking a page from most running and marathon plans and advice. Roll with the punches, be flexible and adaptable. Plan for the best but be prepared for the worst and even if the worst is not even anything you imagined, step back, take a breathe and smile. Take account of what you do have, not what you don’t. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Grab hold of what you can control and acknowledge and let the rest go. Enjoy the run, the moment while still looking ahead.
I kept running and tried to view my unexpected free time at home as an opportunity to be with family. I am taking time to look for new opportunities job-wise and to re-think what I do. I kept lacing up but also tackled my new love of racewalking and laid down a 26-minute 5k. I found new goals, things to keep me busy, I took the time to write, blog and podcast and make new connections. I also remembered to relax, meditate, and keep things balanced as well. I kept going.
Its like that amazing marathon you planned to run. What was planned as a PB run with perfect conditions and you feeling great – turns into a rainstorm and stomach troubles. Take a breathe, evaluate things, slow down if you need to and keep going. Adjust your plans and goals and get the most out of the situation. Get to the finish line.
Remember what is important in life and enjoy your running. Find what makes you happy and hang on to it. We are all in this together.
Noel Paine is an Ottawa-based communications professional, freelance writer, blogger, podcaster and runningdad. He believes donuts go bad and should be eaten before they run away.