Staying motivated without finish lines or races

Did your last glimmer of hope for running a race this year just cancel? Runners have been watching races drop off our calendars since the beginning of the year. I didn’t know that my “training run” at Celebration Marathon this year would likely be the only official race that I would complete in 2020. After an incredible training cycle, I was poised to smash my marathon personal best at the Tokyo marathon.

Needless to say, with COVID-19 making its way onto the scene, my dream of completing the world marathon majors this year before my 40th birthday came to a screeching halt. The Tokyo marathon was one of the first of many to come that was canceled for non-elites. Learning of this cancellation was devastating to me. The next day, I woke up and did what I know to do when life hands me lemons. I run so hard that I pulverize said imaginary lemons to bits.

Then I desperately signed up for the Atlanta marathon thinking that it would help assuage my feelings of despair. Only to realize a couple of days later that it just wouldn’t be the same. So I did something that will make some of you gasp at the sheer horror of it. I stopped running.

Yep, you read that right. Christine, a certified running coach decided that running wouldn’t soothe this disappointment. I booked a trip to the Caribbean and explored the islands while drinking in sunsets and rum concoctions. I never once allowed myself to be shamed by that little inner voice that says, “you should be [insert something guilt-inducing here]”.

Upon my return, the world had completely changed. This weird SARS-like illness that had created the need for the Tokyo marathon cancellation was making its way around the globe and WHO declared a pandemic and health crisis.

I learned that a canceled race wasn’t the end of the world and that the finish line and the subsequent finisher medal wasn’t my real motivation to run. Slowly, my running shoes started calling to me. I had to get back outside and in nature. I found solace in this weird upside-down world through my love of running.

Staying in a routine and focused on health and fitness was restorative to my soul. I allow myself to love running just for the sake of running. With no real finish line in sight, I continue to lace up as a way to stay happy, healthy, and sane.

So give yourself a bit of grace. Racing will at some point come back into our lives, but for now, find that love of running as a celebration of movement and feeling what your body is capable of. That is at the end of the day the best motivation as runners we can have. If you are looking for some camaraderie as you sort through a new normal, join the 6-week accountability challenge.

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