Sometimes things don’t go as planned. In these challenging times, with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading around the globe, we’ve all had to find ways to adjust. We’ve cancelled our trips, put events on hold, limited our social interactions and scaled back on our usual lifestyles and routines.
When I’ve heard about the cancellation of Tokyo Marathon at the end of February, my heart had sunk. I felt so much for the runners who trained for months, tirelessly raised money for their charities of choice, anticipated the sweet sight of the finish line, and kept their hopes high for not just finishing the race but proving to themselves and the entire world that they can do it.
However, I could hardly imagine that thousands miles away, here in New York City, my running plans would also get interrupted. Like 20,000+ other runners, I was notified that New York City Half Marathon, the most coveted 13.1 mile-race in the world, has been cancelled due to the precaution measures against the spread of the virus.
I was furious. I was frustrated. I was mad.
I went ahead and poured my heart out in a post on my Instagram page. I couldn’t believe that my training that started less than a month after a surgery, my dedication that continued through my business trips and dreadful winter weather, my passion to run and crush this race despite all odds and curveballs that life has been throwing at me was going to end like this, with a cancellation email.
But I felt strong. I felt ready. I felt confident in myself and that’s when I decided that I would still do my half marathon, whether through an official race or not. I realized that at the end of the day, running was all about me – my abilities, my training and my goals.
I told myself that I would go out on my local trail over the weekend and do it. Will it be hard without the crowds to cheer me on? Probably. Will my excitement level go do if I don’t pass through the most iconic NYC landmarks? Maybe. Will I stand up for the challenge and put forward my training and passion to complete this race? Most definitely.
Over the years, running has carried me through the most challenging times in my life. It helped me cope with the hardships of unemployment, it made me more confident not just as an athlete but as a person overall, it proved that I can do anything if only I set my mind to it.
This time, with the entire world on edge and anxiety taking over our daily lives, it was important for me to let running save me again. Prove that I can do it, despite all odds, regardless of the circumstances.
And I did. I went on my local trail to conquer these 13.1 miles in my last year’s New York City Half shirt, with my last year’s New York City Half bib, with a great attitude and with a desire to make it a great race.
As I was running, following my usual half marathon strategy, I tried to make the most of it – enjoy the nature around me, watch birds, breathe in fresh suburban air, say “good morning” to fellow runners, and focus on my pace and doing my best. I wasn’t aiming for the fast time or for setting a personal record, but rather I wanted to be able to use my training, feel my strength, show up and be stronger than the worldwide chaos around me.
I crossed my imaginary finish line scoring my second best half marathon. I didn’t get the medal or the cheering from the crowds, but I did get enormous satisfaction of finishing the race, conquering the course and turning a challenge into an opportunity.
Running may not solve all of your problems, but it can help with anxiety, amp up your confidence, boost your immunity, make you think more creatively and provide the time for you to be alone with your thoughts and inner self, one on one. These are the things that we all need, especially during these challenging times as we’re all trying to adjust to new lifestyles.
No matter what the circumstances are and what life throws your way, believe in your strengths, rely on yourself and make things happen for you, regardless of the limitations the outside world tries to put on you or your goals.
Sadly, the New York City Half Marathon wasn’t the first and won’t be the last race that’s been cancelled or postponed (my good energy goes to everyone registered for London and Boston Marathons!), but I hope that my story inspires you as you’re trying to embrace changes to your running plans, because of the COVID-19 or any other reasons.