At this exact moment, one year ago today I was running along the Page Rim Trail in the Antelope Canyon 50-mile ultra trail race. The hardest parts of the race were behind me and I was playing the game of mindfulness and doing the mental math on how much further I had to go to get to the finish line. I remember just taking in the scenery and knowing that I just had to make it to the next aid station. Aid stations provide motivation and allow you to create little milestones to just keep going.
Running 50 miles is damn hard. Running 50 miles is also damn fun. It’s a test of one’s grit. It’s a grueling exercise in testing your physical and mental fortitude. More so the mental fortitude part. One of my favorite quotes on running is: “Running is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental.”
A year ago I was in pretty amazing shape – not in the best shape of my running life – but I was in good shape. In the second half of 2019 I was training like crazy to run a sub-3-hour marathon at the Houston Marathon in January. Once that goal was accomplished, I knew I needed to start training for Antelope Canyon, so I jumped back into marathon training and then ran the Austin Marathon less than a month later. And then I had less than a month to get ready for my first 50-miler, so I just kept tacking on 10- and 20-miler training runs and I’d train with no abandon.
Antelope Canyon on March 14th 2020 was one of the best days of my life. I’d put in so much work in my training and that work paid off. And after the race, the girls and I had an amazing Spring Break in northern Arizona and southern Utah exploring the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic just 3 days before, so business were shutting down and people were told to shelter in place. The national parks were “open,” but there were no services or regular park rangers on duty, so we kind of had the parks to ourselves. It was an amazing Spring Break.
But Spring Break and our vacation had to come to an end. So we flew back to Austin and were forced to dive headfirst into the new pandemic normal. I had no running or race plans after Antelope Canyon as I figured I’d find something to put on the calendar after I took a much-needed break. I still kept running for the fun of it, but hadn’t any goals. I guess my next adventure would’ve been running every street in our neighborhood.
After that, nothing. My sub-3 marathon in Houston qualified me to run the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, so my thought was that I would start training for those races in 2021, but COVID kind of messed those up. There still might be a 125th running of Boston in October if we can get the coronavirus under control.
In “celebration” of running my first 50-miler a year ago today, this morning I ran the Far West Summit 10k in the northwest hills of Austin. I lost count of how many times I had to stop, put my hands on my knees and huff and puff like a guy who endeavoring in running his first 10k.
I guess that’s part of the allure of running. Here’s to new beginnings.