The weekend that everything shut down in Michigan my partner and I were signed up to do a Pi Day run. It was a fun, no stakes 5k on a (kind of boring) course that we’ve done a few races on. The most exciting thing about it was the the shirt and metal….and as any casual runner knows, after a couple years of doing these races neither is in short supply. And I’ve been a regular, casual runner for the past ten years now. I’ve got an abundance of shirts, medals (mostly finisher medals), race logo bearing headbands, hats, gloves and so on and so forth. But I was still quite disappointed when the Pi Day run got cancelled and I realized there would be no new race paraphernalia that weekend…or for quite a while as it turns out.
In lieu of the scheduled race we were offered the option to defer our registration to another of this companies races or to switch our registration to a “virtual race”. I’ve heard of these “virtual races”, they existed even before the pandemic forced us into isolation, but I’ve never understood the appeal. I did briefly consider switching my registration for the Pi Run to a virtual race, I really wanted a Pi Day shirt and metal! But that would mean we basically just bought a shirt and silly metal for $45. That’s $90 for the two of us…To a cheapskate like myself that’s not justifiable.
So why then am I willing to pay so much to go run a relatively easy distance on a lame course at a super non-competitive pace? (Because let’s be real, I’ve got no chances of placing at these big events.)
I’ve asked myself this many times over the years and occasionally have decided it’s not worth it but more often than not if a race catches my attention I’m willing to shell out the dough, get up somewhat early on a weekend morning, and go spend some time running with a bunch of equally silly random strangers. Sometimes the weather is quite unpleasant. Sometimes it’s very early. Sometimes we’re wearing ridiculous outfits. Why?? Because it’s fun (and we’re slightly off our rockers). There’s nothing like a crowd of enthusiastic runners waiting around in the early morning mist for the gun to go off. The energy is unique and palpable. There’s a sense of camaraderie, personal challenge, and adventure.
Personally, signing up for a variety of races throughout the year helps keep me motivated as a runner. It gives me a structured goal to push myself towards, it helps motivate me to challenge myself whether it be by running a longer distance or trying to beat a personal best time. It also brings a sense of community to running.
Doing fun and/or challenging races has kept me excited about running for the past decade. But now, that’s all on hold….So what now?
These days, like so many people, I find myself with much more time on my hands than usual and some pretty decent weather. I’ve been able to get out and run three, usually four times a week. But it’s just running with no goals in sight; no fun race, no interesting medal, fun experience or shirt to show for all my time spent running. It’s just running…for the sake of running. Of course there are the usual benefits of getting fresh air and sunshine, time spent alone to let my mind wander, all that but no additional external motivation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. I still have demands on mine and things to fill most of it but, right now during this everything shut down stay-at-home-order (I’m not even sure what to call it), I have the most unstructured time that I’ve had since I was eighteen and fresh out of high school. It’s most certainly a dramatic difference from what I’m used to. On one hand it’s unnerving; I’m not great at self-managing without some sort of structure. But on another hand, it’s quite lovely being able to choose what to do with so much of my time. And the things I’m choosing to do, mostly, are things that I am doing for no other reason than to do them. For example, I crocheted a big fat scarf. We’re heading into much warmer weather, I don’t have any person or purpose in mind for this scarf… I just made it for the fun of it. I liked the colors and thought they called for a chevron pattern. SO I crocheted a scarf. My running this past month has been just like that: it doesn’t necessarily have a purpose or plan, there’s no real reward other than the enjoyment of the time spent doing it. Right now that’s enough.
So much about this pandemic and being “quarantined”, about this forced slamming the brakes on life as we know it, really sucks. For so many people it does. I get it, I’m living that too. Seniors in both high school and college are missing out on socially important milestones and there’s no getting those back. It’s especially hard for students who are missing their final season of a sport. In the grand scheme of things that might be inconsequential but in reality it’s a heavy loss to bear. I’m not going to put a positive spin on that, not even going to try, but I do hope some of those athletes are using this time to engage in their sport, to practice their craft at whatever level they can, just for the sake of doing it.