COVID-19 Ultra

by Bill Hoffman

They say running a hundred mile race is like living a lifetime in a day. You start off young and spry, you reach the wild teen years where you feel like you can run fast forever, you become a young adult and start to settle into life. At mile 50 you are middle aged and starting to show some wear. There are bound to be setbacks and comebacks along the way. From 50 to 100, if you are wise, a balance is reached and you settle into life with a body ready to stop, but a will that drives you forward towards the finish line.

The whole world has entered the Covid-19 Ultramarathon. This is going to be a long strange trip. Early on in the pandemic, I remember a meme that said the rest of the world is terrified of catching the virus and runners are terrified that their race will be canceled. I have to admit I related to that meme. Well, one by one my races have dropped off the calendar. Yet, I am still running because I am a runner.

Immediately when news of quarantines came out, I worried about what I would do if I happened to be unlucky enough to come in contact with someone that had the virus and I was quarantined to my house for 14 days. Would I be allowed to run around the block, maybe in the woods behind my house? Maybe if I went at night in the dark no one would notice. I would of course have to stop posting to Strava. These were things that worried me.

The reality of the pandemic has been different than what I expected. I imagined something from a sci-fi movie where you have a deadly virus, and there is a crack team of epidemiologist tracking down everyone infected. Then testing and quarantining anyone in contact with them. Alas, that did not happen and we are in for a long bumpy roller coaster ride.

One thing I have noticed is that runners gotta run! Seriously, folks, we have an addiction. We have had quarantine backyard ultras, neighborhood Strava marathons, crazy tiny space marathons, and some runners getting themselves into trouble ….

There was this runner in China that lost her job and was expelled from a country for running while under quarantine:

"I need to go running. I need to work out. If I fall sick, who will take care of me? Will you come?" shouts the woman, as she tries to open the keypad lock on her apartment door. She appears to have just returned from a jog and is not wearing a face mask.”

There was the guy that ran a full marathon by going back and forth on his apartment balcony:

In China a man ran a 50k in his living room!

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who is clearly not a runner, said “You cannot go on long bike rides. Playgrounds are shut down,” she said. “You must abide by the order. Outside is for a brief respite, not for 5Ks.”

I am sure that caused some serious issues for runners in Chicago. For most distances runners a 5k is a brief respite.

In France, running farther than 2k from your home was banned.

Immediately after hearing about that one, I am thinking that means I can run a 12K circle around my house and never be more than 2k from home. Of course, the roads would not always work out that way, but that is where my mind went right away.

In the Capital District, we have been fortunate. For the most part we are free to run as much as we want as long as we do it alone. My favorite trails at Moreau State Park are still open. I have seen more people than ever on the trails, but it is still easy to keep your distance.

As each of my races comes and goes on the calendar without an actual race, it hurts. As Christopher McDougall said, “The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other,... but to be with each other.” I really miss being with the running community. I miss all the big races: Boston, 7 Sisters, Patch Sprint, Manitou’s Revenge. The list will grow, I am sure.

Right before the apocalypse of racing for 2020, I got in one last race, the Celebrate Life Half Marathon on March 14th. I ran with my friends from the Clifton Park beer runners. It was a beautiful day and was to be a tune up race for Boston, I had no idea it would be the last, and not the first, race of the season.

Shortly after that, I got in one last trail run with a group. We ran from Buck Mt. to Sleeping Beauty Mt. and back. It was an awesome day.

Since then, it has been just me and my dog:

I know this will be over someday, and I have not stopped running. As a distance trail runner I think I am mentally well equipped to run by myself, but I do miss my friends and look forward to the day we will be with each other again.

Stay safe, and run some local trails.

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