Just over a year ago, I found myself sitting in my hometown bar enjoying a beer and breakfast, hours before my last race to date.
It’s a moment that will always stick out for me. With one step, I was celebrating the shenanigans of my up-and-down 2019 running season, and with the next step, I was prepared to give 2020 everything I had.
The race was five miles, and mostly uphill, but I grinded it out and soon had visions of crushing a 50K in March. So I ran like crazy, cross-trained, and kept a sharp eye on my eating. I was consistently waking up early to exercise before work, and the results came fast, to the point where the women at my job were kidding me for allegedly wearing a smaller jean size than they were.
On the last long run of my training block, I was exploding through the final miles of a grueling 20-miler on the Appalachian Trail. While standing in the parking lot and finishing the coffee in my mug, Sharpie came out of the woods huffing and puffing with his hands on his hips. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I secretly wondered if this was the year I would finally finish a race ahead of Sharpie, probably the toughest and grittiest runner in my immediate running circle.
I never got to find out.
That’s because COVID-19 happened. My race was canceled. My group runs stopped. My kids were out of school, and soon I was out of a job. Since nearly all of us have our own sad stories of getting rocked by 2020, I’ll try to keep a long story short: My mileage plummeted and my weight, thanks to my unrelenting support of local restaurants, went way up.
I eventually turned things around and ended my year on a strong note, using a 10-week running streak to help push my 2020 mileage total to 930 miles. It could have been a better year for my running career, but I’ll be happy with what I got out of it and won’t complain, because it could have been a lot worse.
With that said, I am hoping and praying for 2021 to be a banner year for running. This isn’t necessarily a wish for my own personal running journey, but rather the sport itself.
The thing I am hoping for the most out of this year is for the human, face-to-face aspect of running to make its return. I miss being in the crowd for the mass start of a race and breaking the ice with the runners around me by bringing out one of my many overused dad jokes.
I want to challenge my rivals on the race paths, and share a meal (usually a banana and water) with them afterward. I’d love to be able to finish a live race, and just have the ability to hug the runner(s) that helped push me to the finish line.
If nothing else, this past year has been a good way to squeeze in those introspective long runs and dabble in the world of virtual racing, but man … I miss the real thing. I plan on registering for a few races in hopeful anticipation of a post-pandemic world, but with all of the uncertainties still at play, I can only keep my fingers crossed at this point.
So 2021, do your thing. I have a lot of personal running goals, but I won’t complain about falling short of any of them, if racing can just return to what it once was. If it does, put those post-race (or pre-race) beers on my tab: It will be the most normal thing we’ve done in months.
Mont Alto’s Angie Fuss took off running on Dec. 30, 2011 and hasn’t taken a day off since, with the 42-year-old streaker racking up at least one mile of running per day for nine straight years, or 3,288 consecutive days.
Fuss celebrated nine years with a splash, closing out the final nine days of 2020 by running nine miles on each day.
In a Facebook post, Fuss said, “I’m happy, healthy and blessed to have the best support system that a girl could ever ask for. I am grateful for everyone who has encouraged me or joined me on this journey and I am looking forward to doing big things in Year 10!”
Andy Sandrik writes about running in central Pa. for the USA Today Network Pennsylvania. Reach him at email@example.com.