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  • Laura Robb

2020, A Virtual Recap

Well, we survived 2020. It was a far cry from the 20/20 vision most of us had a year ago. Three hundred and sixty-five days ago we were all preparing to welcome in a new decade as a squeaky clean slate with endless possibilities.

Um. What happened? Ok, we all know what happened. A global pandemic screeched life as we knew it to a halt. Planes stopped flying overseas. Home offices popped up in nooks and crannies in homes across the globe and families balanced school and work commitments the best they could. And somewhere in the midst of all the real world problems, sports ceased to exist. Professional sports arenas were dark, Saturday morning baseball fields were eerily quiet, weeds started to take root in soccer fields and runners across the world suddenly had no start line to toe, no chip time, no medals and no training plans.

Life became a virtual world. Overnight, people of all ages learned the word Zoom, complete with Zoom filters. Who knew co-workers could become talking potatoes? Meetings, classrooms and even courtrooms all became virtual. Business casual took on a whole new meaning. Business attire on top and casual attire on the bottom. My running leggings had a whole new purpose!

Personally, my life changed very little as the world shut down, as I am the true definition of a home body, always perfectly content to stay curled up at home. Working from home was my dream come true. On the flip side, 2020 had plans, big adventurous plans and my adventurous self mourned those plans. No London Marathon, no Ireland vacation and no race-cation in California to hurl myself down a mountain to beach race in my quest for a faster marathon time.

Nope, my big adventurous plans lay in ruins. But as I was dusting off my self-pity, there was a huge virtual movement on the horizon to satiate runners everywhere.

Virtual races.

Virtual events have been around for years. The various companies advertised on social medial forums to entice runners into joining their events using one-of-kind medals and promises of fun. Many runners viewed virtual events kind of like fake races, not worthy of their time. I was no exception, virtual runs weren’t my thing.

Until they were the only option.

Respected race directors all over the country put their spin on some really cool virtual options. My first virtual event was met with some skepticism from my husband. He thought I was crazy, why would I want to run 5 miles every four hours for 24 hours? Um, because it was something new and different? Of course, my desire to do this event won, and it was an epic hit. I still have such fond memories of that day! Twenty-four hours of no pandemic talk, only running. Our running friends joined in and we had a blast.

The virtual events continued to pour in and I shamelessly signed up for countless events. The virtual events became my hobby and it felt great to support race directors around the country.

2020 virtual medals.

On May 1, 2020, I joined a virtual race with 20,000 other runners to virtually run across the great state of Tennessee to become a RAT (Race Across Tennessee). And it was in this virtual quest, that I found my 2020 spark of joy. Every day, I woke extra early to run and walk before work. Logging miles on a website to virtually see where I was in Tennessee. My purpose was to simply cross the great state from start to finish, until it became clear that I might actually have a shot at making the return trip within the allotted time. That is, IF I could run a half marathon basically every day for a month.

Challenge accepted.

Running close to 13.1 miles on the daily was intense but I loved it. Often times, I failed at taking a rest day despite many promises to take it easy. The quest to virtually finish that race lit a fire inside me. I finished that return crossing and became a BAT (Back Across Tennessee). In hindsight being called a RAT and a BAT makes me giggle now as I surely didn’t see those names being a badge of honor at the start of 2020!

During that BAT journey, somewhere between August and September when I ran 402 miles and 334 miles respectively, it became clear that my only limits were solely defined by my thoughts. This was no ordinary 26.2 mile journey that was started sometime in the early morning and finished well before lunch. This required four months of focus and determination. If I didn’t get myself out of bed early, the miles wouldn’t get logged. When I finished that Tennessee race, I reviewed my 2020 goals made at the beginning of the year. I was nervous about accomplishing them but determined to make them happen because if they didn’t happen in 2020, would they ever happen? As a refresher, my 2020 goals were to fundraise big for AIMS and get a Boston Qualifier marathon time.

The Boston Qualifier race that I signed up wasn’t that far away and my self-doubt was starting to creep back in. Despite having all the tools at my disposal, I didn’t know if it was actually possible. Me, a 47 year old mom of three, a former smoker, a former MS patient who needed canes to walk and who was also formerly obese due to all the steroids, actually run a BQ time? Psh. Highly doubtful.

But what if? What if, I approached this challenge in my life with a new perspective? One where I ignored the self-doubt with no excuses and no justifications? My prior races all had the same ending, “it was great until ______” Basically a fill in the blank of excuses.

Not that the excuses weren’t actually valid but allowing those excuses, allowed failure to be okay.

Enough.

I toed that start line in Grand Rapids, MI and ran a six loop course. It was surreal to be running a live race again and it was scary and exhilarating at the same time! The race swirled around self-doubt, unimaginable chaffing and unexpected hills. I never did do a race recap on that race because when the finish line was reached, it was successful. No justification, no excuses, only success! What more was there to say? Just a hair under four minute buffer into Boston. Will it be enough? Who knows and does it matter, because those 3 hours, 46 minutes and 5 seconds taught me that dreams are achievable with hard work, dedication and belief in yourself.

Following that huge success was the virtual London Marathon which had a couple of different proposed locations and themes. Certainly not the race envisioned at the start of the year but the race organization did an incredible job with a super special app that cheered every mile and gave interesting tid bits along the way. The race was made extra special by cheers from over seas and to be able to run the race near my mom and family. We placed London mile markers along the way and my family took turns keeping me company. It was truly the icing on the cake for 2020.

In all reality, 2020 became my year of self-realization and belief that if you want to do something, do it. Years ago, I never thought I would run a marathon. I have now run nine, each with their own story. I often think back to myself in 2010. A newly re-married mother of three kids who had just been diagnosed with MS. I was quite hopeless and had basically thrown the towel in on a lot of dreams, until HSCT became an option. HSCT wasn’t given with promises, it was given with hope.

So 2021, it would be prudent of me to stay silent, not jinx a fresh year, but the hell with it, let’s go ahead and make big plans again! I know, I know it feels like Groundhog Day but yes, I am going to head to London to FINALLY run the London Marathon on October 3, 2021and meet the AIMS trustees in real life! But at this point, why do one marathon when you can do three? The world marathon majors basically rescheduled the fallen marathons of 2020 to a perfect trifecta in 2021. Berlin Marathon on September 26, 2021, London Marathon on October 3, 2021 and Chicago Marathon on October 10, 2021. It will be an interesting whirlwind three weeks for sure.

So if you are still reading this long drawn out virtual 2020 recap, please note once again that this was all made possible by Dr. Burt and HSCT. But what good would a long drawn out blog be without a final 2020 plea for donations to AIMS? If you by chance have a smidge extra to donate before the end of the year, I can assure you that a donation to AIMS is life changing for many. https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/

So bring it 2021. We are ready to cast the virtual shadow of 2020 aside and we all look forward to a clean slate of endless hope and crushing goals.

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