There’s something really special about the fall when you’re a runner. Of course, we can all reap the benefits of seasonal favorites, like pumpkin-flavored everything (I’m particular to brews), beautiful foliage and sweater weather. But for us runners, we look forward to the cooler temperatures that cater to idyllic running conditions and the best-of-the-best races and miles that fall between the beginning of September and the end of November. It’s usually jam-packed with a slew of fun options, from hometown 5Ks and turkey trots to a few of the Abbott World Majors, including the Berlin, Chicago and New York Marathons.
This year, however, things are different. As we’ve all coped with the impact of COVID-19 on our regular routine — from how we work to the way we work out — we’ve also had to embrace that running isn’t the same, either. Last October, I ran the best marathon of my life, cutting more than 20 minutes off my personal best and qualifying for Boston in 2021. This October, I was supposed to run the rescheduled London Marathon (but really, never expected to), and have absolutely no races (virtual or otherwise) on the calendar.
VIRTUAL OPTIONS ONLY
Have I thought about signing up for something digital? Of course. I dabbled in the virtual Seawheeze Half last month and realized just how difficult it truly is to execute a race on your own without spectators, water stations and a closed course. Despite slaying a new personal best half time, the feeling of excitement wasn’t the same without my friends and family around to celebrate post-finish or link up hours later for a few post-run burgers.
I’m certainly not alone in this feeling. For Charisse Winter, from Orlando, virtual racing just hasn’t felt like an appealing option. “I’ll gladly go out and do the distance, especially if it involves charity or a team, but to me, especially as someone who has always been a primarily solo runner for training — a virtual race is just another run,” she says. “Instead, I’m really embracing this time of no races to explore new endurance territory: cycling, strength, hiking, trail running, and just being super active.”
MISSING MARATHON TRAINING
Does life feel different without marathon training in my September fold? Of course. And to be real, I definitely miss having a committed schedule. But for me, the priority lies in staying healthy, celebrating the small wins and enjoying the sport for what it gives me — my sanity and a lot of smiles with every stride.
The question arises: What are other runners focusing on during this time without racing? Experts could suggest cross-training, strength training, and instilling a solid recovery practice into the mix. For Lindsey Clayton, an RRCA-certified run coach and co-founder of Brave Body Project, she’s certainly amped to focus on her strength work for once. “I’m really lucky to have access to heavier weights, and it feels good to be lifting heavy again,” she shares. “This fall, I’m trying to run four times a week, including one longer run on the weekends.”
For Elizabeth Carr, of Massachusetts, she’s choosing to run 26.2 miles each week rather than train for one big 26.2-mile event. “It’s something I started with a friend who wanted to support my marathon training a few years ago but did not want to do the miles since she wasn’t running a marathon — I was,” she says. “At the time, we kept each other accountable by each aiming for 26.2 miles a week. Now, when I don’t have anything else on the horizon, it’s how I keep myself accountable to keep showing up day-in and day-out.”
While racing may be off the table, that doesn’t mean speed gains aren’t something to be stoked about. By adding small training tweaks to his regular running routine, Rich Hemsely of New York is looking forward to testing his fitness in fun and different ways. “My coach schedules intermittent mile and 5K time trials to test my fitness,” he says. “In lieu of a race, I’ll run a solo 10K goal time trail near the end of the year, which will help me gauge how well I perform against my past.”
Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.