Getting through the middle
Plus in-person races in Illinois, Israel, Tennessee + Texas, and discounts for a pair of upcoming races
“You don’t get anywhere by magic, but only by putting in the required number of steps, one at a time, and in the correct sequence. You can’t run the last lap of a mile until you’ve run the first three. There is a truth, a beauty, and a symmetry in this that is inviolate. Every step counts. Each is an act of beauty.”
— Bernd Heinrich, Why We Run: A Natural History
When I was in my late twenties, a friend of mine and I decided to do a triathlon one weekend. On the spur of the moment.
(As one does, right?)
You see, I’d run a marathon just a few weeks before. So I had this idea in my head that there was nothing physical I couldn’t do, no mountain I couldn’t climb.
It didn’t take me long, of course, to find out I was wrong. 😃
If you’ve ever participated or competed in a triathlon, you know the first event is the swim. The day of our triathlon, I got in the water with a few hundred other people — who were actually trained and ready for the race — and started swimming.
My first few strokes in the water went okay. But the further out in the lake I swam, the more out of breath I found myself. This wasn’t easy, AT ALL.
Actually, it was incredibly — and I mean incredibly! — difficult. But for some reason, I kept swimming the roughly mile-long loop in the lake that was laid out for us to swim.
Finally, I had to do something. If I didn’t stop, I thought to myself, things were going to start going sideways really quickly.
Thankfully, the organizers had stationed people in kayaks out in the water for scenarios exactly like mine. So I pulled up to the closest one, threw my arm over it, and watched the other swimmers gracefully make their way back to the lakeshore.
I watched them all get out of the water, dry off quickly, and get on their bikes to start the second leg of the triathlon, the 15-mile bike ride. And off they went, as I was still catching my breath in the water, hanging off the edge of a kayak.
To this day, I don’t know why I made the decision I made next, but I did. I could have said the hell with this, and just asked the person on the kayak to take me back to the shore. Could’ve called it a day, and waited for my friend to finish the event.
But I didn’t. For some reason, I said to myself, “well, we’ve come about halfway, so we might as well go ahead and swim the other half.”
Fast-forward through the rest of the event, it won’t surprise you to hear that I came in last. (I’m not joking; I came in dead last of everyone who finished the race — as I made the turn to head in toward the finish line of the 5-mile run, one of the volunteers said to me, “you’re the one we’ve been waiting for!”)
I keep coming back to that story in my head because we’re in the middle of so much right now. We’re in the middle of the year (roughly), we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re in the middle of an election year. We’re in the middle of A LOT of things.
Back in the early 1950s, my paternal grandmother was a single mother raising two sons. She’d just moved from the tiny rural Georgia town of Sparta to Augusta, which back then was a bigger city than Sparta, but still pretty small.
She had no education beyond the fourth grade, and she’d recently divorced from my grandfather. She was in her late 30s, doing everything she possibly could to keep what was left of her family together. All on her own.
Later in her life, she’d experience a lot of happiness. Grandchildren, a long retirement, friends and family that lived nearby. My mom often said of her that her last ten years were probably the best years of her life.
But back when she had just split up from my grandfather? Life was pretty dicey, to say the least. At the time, she most definitely did not know that better times lay ahead. The future was cloudy at best. (And it could have turned out much, much differently.)
I can tell you this story now, with the benefit of hindsight, knowing everything turned out okay in the end. But would I be telling you if it hadn’t? Probably not. That’s the thing about right now — we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
My grandmother didn’t. (And, much less consequentially, I didn’t either at the triathlon.) But she just put one foot in front of the other, and simply kept going. She did what she needed to do to make today better than the day before, and the next day a little bit better.
To me, that’s the thing about where we all find ourselves right now. I really don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. (Do you? If you do, please share! 😃 )
Like you, the only thing I know to do is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. And to just keep going, keep taking steps forward.
As Bernd Heinrich writes in the quotation above, every step counts. What will our steps look like today?
Races you’ll love running
Ein Bokek, Israel | Friday, Feb. 5, 2021
You’ll run through the lowest point on Earth at this once-in-a-lifetime race through the Jordan Rift Valley, with Israel on one side as you run and Jordan on the other. The race begins at Ein Bokek, a hotel and resort village along the Israeli side of the salt-rich lake, whose surface and shoreline lie at about 1,412 feet below sea level. From there, you’ll run along the lake’s shoreline, taking it its deep azure blue hues and the salt crystals drying at the surface along the beach.
$56 and up | Sign up here
Anywhere, U.S.A. | Anytime in 2020
A virtual race designed to raise money for CURE Childhood Cancer, this race offers you the chance to fit your 13.1 miles in however you want — all at once at the same time, or space them out on multiple days. As long as you get them in by December 31 (and submit them), your results are counted.
$39 and up | Sign up here
👉 Get 10% off with discount code “HMNET10”
🏃♀️ Use the same code to save $10 off the 2021 San Diego Half Marathon
Hudson, Ill. | Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020
A small, socially-distanced and self-supported race, the Dam Site Run makes its inaugural running this fall along the banks of Lake Bloomington, just over 2 hours outside Chicago. And, organizers add, “seriously, you pay what you can afford.” A limited number of $10 entries and $20 entries are available for those whose income has been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown, or for those unable to get a refund from another cancelled fall marathon.
$10 and up | Sign up here
Mustang Island, Tex. | Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020
Run where wild horses roamed for hundreds of years along this barrier island on the Texas Gulf Coast. Starting from the Beach Lodge on Mustang, you’ll run this out-and-back half entirely along the beach, feeling the salty sea air as the wind whips through your hair. One hundred percent of the race is on the beach, and there’s almost no elevation gain or loss — this thing is pancake-flat the entire way. If you’re feeling you’re not up for 13.1, the race also offers a 5K and 10K; if you’re up for more, there’s a full marathon, 50K and even a 50-miler.
$55 - $120 | Sign up here
Knoxville, Tenn. | Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020
Fifty miles of trails and greenways through more than 1,000 acres of forest along the Tennessee River make up the park system known as Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, and it’s these trails you run at this late fall/early winter race, where snow and ice could easily be on the ground by race day. Starting from the Ijams Nature Center along the river, you’ll run through a series of parks and past a marble rock quarry, including a long stretch through the Forks of the River Wildlife Area.
$25 and up | Sign up here
Great running reads
Alysia Montaño Is the Hero of This Story. And It’s About Damn Time. An interview with the 2012 Olympic runner — as well as author, activist and mother — who is working through a nonprofit she founded (&Mother) to break down barriers for women who want to pursue a career and motherhood. A powerful, powerful conversation, worth reading and hearing every word.
“I feel like anybody who is a marginalized person should be an activist. I don’t want to leave my destiny in other people’s hands.”
17 Training Myths, Addressed by a Running Coach. It’s no secret that training advice on the internet can be hard to sift through; how do you know what works for you and what doesn’t? Running coaches David and Megan Roche talked with Outside Magazine on 17 common questions runners of all abilities ask and strike down common myths that hold us back — especially around whether what works for elite runners should work for us.
“The body doesn’t know miles, it knows stress. If an athlete does the same types of miles as a gold medalist, there’s a good chance the stress could turn their body and spirit into a pile of smoldering rubble.”
Should You Run in Your Local Race During the Coronavirus Outbreak? The safest option, of course, is to run a virtual race. But some races — especially smaller trail races — can be managed safely, provided they follow the recommended public health guidelines. Runner’s World offers up some good rules to follow in deciding whether or not to run one where you live.
“If the race allows for more entrants than is okay by public health guidelines, don’t participate.”
In a Naked Pandemic Race, You Can Leave Your Hat On. You don’t want to miss this great, great first-person article by Jen A. Miller on what it’s like to run a race completely in the buff. (Well, almost completely.) This is dedication to one’s journalistic craft — Miller participated in the race herself.
“When I checked in, I was handed a race bib and a T-shirt, but then a staffer — naked except for mask and gloves — wrote my race number with a marker on my leg. Where was I going to pin a bib anyway?”
A song to run to today
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