What have the miles meant to you in 2020?

By Mario Fraioli |

This holiday season, Tracksmith is acknowledging that Running is a Gift and that this year, the miles meant more. I loved this short film narrated by Malcolm Gladwell that brings this theme to life. It gave me goosebumps and got me thinking about what the miles have meant to me in 2020. As I reflect upon the sh*tstorm of uncertainty and chaos that has proven overwhelming at times the past several months, running has been the rock that’s helped me weather it all. It’s kept me grounded and the miles have meant more than ever before, despite the fact that I didn’t race for the first time in the 23 years I’ve been involved in the sport.

In Issue 264 of the newsletter, I asked readers, “What have the miles meant to you in 2020?” Here are responses:

“I’ve seen an entire life cycle of running in this one short (long) year, 2020. As soon as quarantine hit, I hit the pavement. Running, my one escape from a full house of us: 2 working parents, 3 teenagers schooling at home and 3 dogs, thrilled with the constant company. But, I ran too far, too much for my body and I ran exclusively. One day after a run, I sat down to work and couldn’t walk when I stood up. An ankle injury of some sort. Not a break. Never got an accurate diagnosis. So, I stopped running and recommenced my yoga practice, reflected on running, dreamed of it, wrote about it. Now, I’m back at it but appreciate it, not as an escape but as a full part of my day. I capture my run (whatever it entails, even when short and/or at a snail’s pace) and am so, so grateful for it.” —Jeanne O.

“[The miles] have allowed me to keep my sanity in this most stressful and emotionally-draining year. With no more races on the calendar, I was able to pursue running just for the purpose of being outside, connecting with nature, and finding mental space in the chaos of daily life, without the internal pressure resulting from continuously trying to improve my race times.” —Marie B.

“Like many runners, these last nine months have been mentally challenging for me. My brain, it seems has been hardwired the past 30+ years to focus on racing. I am using the miles nowadays to push aside the road race fanatic I’ve been since 1989 and utilize the time out to listen and learn from podcasts! I really just became interested to running podcasts this year; being able to connect with what someone has said or a story that inspires me makes my daily runs more enjoyable right now. I’ve learn to accept where I am right now, and something you’ve touched on a lot recently, to BE GRATEFUL I am able to run at all. These past few months have definitely been a time to reset and refocus.” —Kris Anne K.

“Your question about what running in 2020 has meant to us really intrigued me. While I was able to squeeze in a half marathon just a couple weeks before lockdown (9 months ago, though it feels like 9 years), this is the first year in 6 years I didn’t race a marathon. Like so many others, when covid started shutting the world down and races were cancelled left and right, I initially saw running as my respite from the madness of 2020, the one part of my day that still resembled semi-normalness. But then in May, I got injured, and was forced to take a full 5 months off running. While 2020 itself provided a lot of forced introspection, it was really this break that made me reevaluate my relationship with running. Initially, honestly, I was relieved. I’ve been running and training at a fairly intense level for a few years now, and the time off was a welcome break, both physically and mentally. But after an agonizing 5 weeks on crutches, I found myself yearning to be out there in a way I hadn’t felt in years. I missed the camaraderie of being on a running team, the weekends away planned around races, the post-run coffee dates, the agonizing tempo burn that you hate in the moment but are so proud of as soon as the run ends. More than anything, I missed the feeling of pushing myself, of accomplishment. I missed knowing I was doing hard things. And I missed that realization that often comes late in a training cycle, that, wow, yeah, I am getting better at this. 2020’s thrown us all for a loop, but as I’m slowly working on ramping up my mileage again and returning to a regular running routine, I’m reminding myself that someday, maybe, hopefully, those feelings will return.” —Liz C.

“After suffering a femoral fracture and torn labrum during a speed training run in March, the miles have been indicators of just how lucky I am to be back in the game. I sat sidelined for 4 full months before slowly getting back at it. Hours upon hours of PT, images, and doctor’s appointments have all helped me restart the thing I love most of all: running. It is my mental health savior. Now to be more aware of the weaknesses that caused the break in my physical strength has made me stronger mentally and physically. I got out in a virtual 5k race this morning (most years I am the race director as this is a fundraiser for my high school cross country team which I coach) with the goal to run with valor and be consciously aware with every step how lucky I was to be breathing in the crisp Michigan air in a race pace effort! 2020 has brought many struggles, fears and uncertainties. But on the flip side of those it has brought strength I never knew I had. I choose valor.” —Alexis M.

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