Could It Be? A Real In-Person Marathon During The Pandemic
Yes, it's absolutely true. After having 4 races cancelled in 2020, I stumbled upon the East Canyon Marathon happening in Morgan County, Utah on September 5th. I thought to myself, "Why not?" There seemed to be a "lull" in the number of cases due to the warm weather and this race was only going to happen if it could follow proper social distancing guidelines. I didn't want to appear that I was being selfish by traveling during a pandemic. I also thought many times that ALL of these other people traveling at the very same time, were taking the very same risk. I believed that it could be done responsibly so that was our approach. This was an opportunity and if I was going to actually "go the entire distance" and endure that kind of post-race discomfort, I absolutely wanted it to count as one of my 50 states. So I quickly studied the logistics and booked the race, a hotel and the flights and 11 days later I was off to Utah. Once we were actually traveling the day before the race, it honestly felt very normal to me. I mean I was just as close to people in the airport and on a plane as I was when I was walking around in Walmart, Target or Market Basket. The social distancing (or lack thereof) was no different. The only difference was that everyone was wearing a mask. Pat & I kept to ourselves the entire time and once the trip was over, I was glad that I did it. I wasn't very fearful I would get the virus or give it to someone else because we were so incredibly cautious every step of the way. After our travels, we also kept our distance from others as well as immunocompromised family members and no one contracted the virus. Maybe we were just "lucky" but I also think our cautious approach was the driving factor.
I was so looking forward to this race in Utah. I mean it was a downhill race and I haven’t run a marathon in 188 days! What could go so horribly wrong? Not much, I thought. This was the first marathon in the COVID era so we all had to wear masks on the bus ride to the top of Big Summit mountain. I was still sitting in a seat with a stranger, but oh well, we are marathoning again. It felt very surreal, but it also felt awesome. We didn’t talk to each other, which I feel is something we are less likely to do with strangers nowadays anyway. I enjoyed the ride to the top of the mountain. It was cool even though it was totally dark out, I could tell that the run down the mountain would be incredible once the sun came up. Once we got to the top and waited in the port-a-potty line, the race director was calling out the fastest runners first and was sending the off one by one about 10 seconds apart. I decided to start at the 3:40 timepoint thinking I was going to conquer this race in record time (LOL!). At the beginning of this race though, I literally was flying running in the low 7’s. It felt awesome. I was even passing guys on my way down the mountain. At mile 9, I stopped for a quick bathroom break. Early on at mile 2, I felt a pain in the ball of my right foot. I thought it was weird because I never felt that pain before, but since I was flying down the mountain, I temporarily disregarded it. However, as the course flattened and my pace slowed a bit, the pain remained. I stopped at mile 13 or so to massage it. I was hoping that would do the trick. I continued to enjoy the incredible journey. The landscape was so beautiful. I had to pause to take a few pictures even though Pat told me not to waste time. It was too beautiful to pass up. I had to stop and massage the ball of my foot again around mile 15 and 18. After that mile 18 timepoint, it finally felt better. As the race went on, the sun and the heat of the day intensified. The high for the day was going to be 96 degrees so I knew I had to run like hell down the mountain to beat the heat. The race did get progressively worse, in the form of heat, pace and achy hamstrings. To a large degree, this was another race where the two halves were completely different. The first half was cool, dark and a big downhill, but the second half was warm, sunny and flat with no shade in sight! But nevertheless the course was incredibly beautiful. It was serene and peaceful out there in Utah as I made the trek to Morgan County. Sometimes I have visions of just moving somewhere new and starting over and imagine what that would be like. I try to do that in most of my races and ask myself, “What if I lived HERE?” “What if THIS was my hometown?” As I approached the town, I ran by schools where kids were playing football and through busy parking lots. It did not appear that mask-wearing was a major thing out there in Utah. Life seemed pretty normal. I reached the finish line exhausted and depleted but I essentially just got under a 4:30 time with a little push towards the finish line. This time was not what I expected at all but sometimes races don’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t plan for my foot to hurt, but I did expect that the heat of the day would get the better of me. Bottom line though is that I was so happy that I got another marathon checked off the list that I didn’t even care what my time was. It was important that I simply finished the race and state #25 was finally in the books. Now I am officially half done with running a marathon in all 50 states! The journey is half over you could say. However, after running marathons in all 50 states, I want to run half marathons in all 50 states. So technically, the journey is not really ever over or at least not for a very long time.