And When October Goes ...

by Benita Zahn

As the weather cools our thoughts turn to all those fall races we've enjoyed through the years or planned to run someday. Let's face it, there's nothing more exhilarating than the moments before the starter's gun is heard. We 'run' the race in our mind with visions of a PR before our eyes or simply hoping our legs won't fail when we call for more speed.  But that's not how life's been since March. We're on our own. Making our own races. It's the field of virtual dreams. Granted, there have been a few 'real' races, albeit with a limited field and none of the social trappings we've come to associate with the sport. 

I realize many folks grouse about the virtual world of running. But indulge me as I encourage you to turn that negative on end. 

I see this time as a chance to reframe, refocus, retool and reorganize. 

So virtually raise your hand as I ask these questions if they reflect your life. 

Before coronavirus had you been squeezing runs in, between work and family obligations?

Did you feel you were shortchanging something to get those miles done?

Who felt guilty 'stealing' time to do their running?

Who fell into a routine of how to train?

Yeah, I thought so. Lots of hands.

This out of the ordinary time has provided us with new opportunities.  The after-work job responsibilities disappeared. Kids’ sporting events and other extra-curricular activities went by the boards. Even demands to visit loved ones were put on hold. In short, all we had was time. 

How have you used it? 

Personally, I found time to run in the evening, every Wednesday, as my husband played golf. Yes, golf was allowed to start early on. In 'the old days' I would have agreed to MC an event on Wednesday since he wasn't home. Now you could say I'm MC-ing my running. I've run new places and with people I wouldn't normally connect with. It's been great fun. 

My regular running pal and I ditched the routine which, frankly, had become 'garbage miles'. Now when we meet in the morning, we power walk to warm up and then run and walk, cranking up the pace each time we run for a few minutes. We're probably running faster than we have in a while AND the walking provides us with a chance to chat and catch up with each other's life. 

Because I'm less focused on an upcoming race I've carved out more time to bike. Let's face it, cross training is important for all of us to keep us injury free. 

My point is: reframe the situation we find ourselves in. Rather than see it as a negative, look at is as an opportunity to branch out, shake things up, even connect with those you might not usually cover the miles with. One of my Wednesday night runs was with Patrick Lynskey, who can run rings around me. Instead, we plodded along and managed to fix the world's problems. Now if someone would just listen! It's amazing how clearly you can see a situation when you're not watching the watch.  

This time gives us a chance to refocus our running. Why are we doing what we're doing? Is there something else we can and should be doing with our time and how we stay fit?

We can also go back to the basics and examine our running form, the routes we choose, the gear we use.

And finally, we can reorganize. The world will resume some semblance of what it looked like before March 2020. Do you want your life to pick up as it was or, during this time of reflection, can you reorganize so you have more space? Just as we weed out unused clothing from our closet, we should embrace the opportunity to do the same with our lives. 

Start lines and finish lines will eventually resume.  What kind of a runner will you be when that happens? 

And as you think about that, let me leave you with the lyrics of a Barry Manilow song that always tugs at my heart and seems appropriate right now. Yes, find the silver lining in this time but honor the heaviness in your heart as well. 

And when October goes
The snow begins to fly
Above the smoky roofs
I watch the planes go by
The children running home beneath
A twilight sky
Oh, for the fun of them
When I was one of them   ---
It doesn't matter much how old I grow
I hate to see October go


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Sweet Sleep


Benita Zahn, DPS Bioethics

Anchor/Health Reporter
WNYT-TV, WNYA-TV, WNYT Digital
Health Beat Host
“Everything Theater” Podcast with Ellen Cribbs
“Live Smart” column Times Union


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