I was entering my final 6 weeks of training leading up to the Boston Marathon this year when I got the news about it’s cancellation. For the previous 6 months, my life revolved around this race and at that moment everything I did up to that point didn’t matter anymore. Sure I was in quite possibly the best running shape of my life, but what did that even mean if I had nothing to show for it?
Two days after the cancellation I decided to go for a somber, joyless run in attempts to combat the depression. I set out on my usual 8 mile out and back route, oblivious of every street light, mailbox, and stop sign I was so familiar with that I could touch with my eyes closed. I thought intently about what the next step was and at the turn around, I stepped on a huge stick, nearly spraining my ankle and I knew I needed to snap back and focus on what was ahead of me. It was at that moment I recalled a podcast I recently listened to with ultra runner Rickey Gates and his Every Single Street Project. He set out to run every single street in San Francisco and in turn started a booming trend among quarantined runners amidst the pandemic.
With two miles to go on my run, I decided to venture off the route and run down a dead end street that I’ve run by over a hundred times yet I didn’t even know the name of it. The street was only about three-quarters of a mile long but for the first time in a long time, I found myself doing something that I always tell myself to do but struggle with; looking up. I was actually paying attention to the unfamiliar trees, beautiful houses with pristine manicured lawns, and the undulating slope of the road.
When I returned home, I went right to the internet and went on a deep dive into my town. What I didn’t realize was how large it actually was, covering nearly 40 square miles and over 300 streets. I knew this task was going to be a daunting one but it gave me something to focus my attention on during the uncertainty of racing. It took me over a month, nearly 350 miles, and almost 25,000 feet of elevation to complete but it gave my running purpose again. And I also learned that in several parts of my town, letting your dog run loose is common practice...yikes.
My every single street project allowed me to not only discover roads that I previously never knew existed, but it also gave me a new found love for the sport. We can get so caught up in the detail side of training that we forget the reasons why we do it in the first place. It’s our escape from the ordinary, a challenge that we thrive for as humans in this world filled with comfort and ease. If we never experience discomfort or adversity, how will we ever know what we’re truly capable of?
Without any races on the calendar and being forced into isolation, I’ve started to realign my priorities. Swimming, cycling, and running miles on end is only a small part of who I am. I’m a husband and a father and this reduction in higher intensity training has allowed me to become more present at home and tackle other areas of my life that I’m passionate about but otherwise couldn’t find the time to complete because of my training.
I ultimately ended up running the virtual Boston Marathon in early September without any expectations, much lower weekly mileage, and no taper. I ran a 2:47, lowering my personal best by over 6 minutes and I think there is a lot to be said about that. There is no better time than now to shift our focus, be more mindful and present about how we are spending our time, and take on new challenges! Try that new sport you’ve always wanted to try or spend some time on something else you are passionate about. Let your creativity flow! If anything comes out of this time of uncertainty, let it be your new found love for something you might have overlooked!
Link to my run!