Seems so long ago that I completed the World Marathon Challenge. In part because the world has changed so much in these past few months. The idea of travelling around the world right now is nearly unimaginable. But, we roll with what life throws at us. Including the lack of races. As someone who generally runs nearly 20 races a year, going four months without a race is unheard of!! During this time, I, like many others, have struggled to find my motivation. If not training for the next big event, then what?!? Well, amongst some ups and downs, I’ve found some ways to have fun with my running… and compete.
The first was inspired by the Quarantine Backyard Ultra (if you didn’t follow it, definitely worth a Google). It was a relatively large-scale virtual event that took advantage of Zoom to connect competitors across the globe for a backyard ultra event. For those that are not familiar, a this is an event where you run 4.16666667 (normally rounded to 4.17) miles every hour on the hour. Last person standing, er… running, wins! Why 4.17 miles? Well, because if you can hold on for 24h, then you’ve completed 100 miles. This is a real, in-person event that organizers decided to turn virtual and offer the most fitting prize for the times… a golden roll of toilet paper. At any rate, after watching this event (it was live streamed on Facebook), I and my fellow WMC athletes were motivated to do something similar. So, we gathered up as many of the WMC 2020 alum that we could and did our own Backyard Ultra. It was a new challenge, having never done a start-stop event like that before. And, so much fun!! In-between each lap, there was time to chat with the others, which gave the event some of the comradery not found with most virtual events. A few of the WMC 2020 alum that were recovering from injury still logged on to visit and support us. I highly recommend an event like this!!! If you were planning on meeting some friends for a race, or just have a group of running friends scattered around the country, or the world, this is a great way to push yourself and feel connected!!
After that, there were a few other virtual options. The WMC 2020 crew got together again over Zoom to tackle a half marathon. Another great reason to push, and I always love a reason to visit with them again! The worldwide MA RA TH ON event, where teams of four completed around the world was another fund reason to push, this time for 10.5K. And my teammates, you guessed it, WMC 2020 alum from Poland, China, and US. Then along came the Medford2Medford virtual race across the US… another team event. Here, teams of up to 20 people compete to cover 3,461.5 miles on foot. You have 80 days to complete it. Our team won by finishing in 21 days!! And, we’re now on our way back across the US!! The team stays in touch via email, so definitely another social aspect to this event that is super enjoyable!
More recently, I participated in the Beat the Clock Challenge. This was a play off the Backyard Ultra format… with a twist. 2.08 miles every half hour on the half hour. But, every hour, you had one less minute to complete the distance. So, laps 1&2, 30 minutes to finish. Laps 3&4, 29 minutes to finish. And, so on. Again, last runner going, and making the time cut-off, wins. Any time you finished early, plus the time before the next half hour was time to rest, eat, hydrate, whatever. Oh, and check in on Zoom. Times were verified every lap by the organizers through Strava upload before the next lap started. Let me back up for a minute and say when I read about this event, I thought it would be an awesome challenge. But, I just sort of forgot about it. Then, I found out two days before the event that my coach signed up for it and decided to join! So glad I did. Not only was it a great physical and mental challenge, I got to spend the day virtually hanging out with my coach. And, we took women’s and men’s wins!!
Part of the takeaway here is that I’ve decided to do most of these events with relatively short notice. So, I’m now running not with a particular short-range goal race in mind (although I do still have my first 100 miler on the books for November), but to stay sharp so I can tackle whatever pops up. It’s a totally different mind-set, but I’m starting to dig it.