These are wild times. I had a conversation with my wife earlier this week where we talked about how the recent days feel a lot like a weird version of a “snow day.” If you’re not from a place that gets snow, you’ve likely never had school canceled because of it. Growing up near Chicago, IL, I was quite familiar with snow days. We typically got at least one per year, and I have a lot of memories of sitting around the radio at night and listening to the updates on which schools were going to cancel classes for the following day. The days and weeks surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic give me eerily similar feelings, without the excitement that came along with missing a day of school to play in the snow. It’s similar because you know that everyone else is going through the same thing, even when you’re alone at home or just with your family members. In this case, it’s not just the kids that went to my school who are affected, but everyone all over the globe. We are all working on overcoming the same struggle, which is an unbelievably unique situation in such an individual-minded world. So, while we all have a lot of anxiety and fear about the uncertainty of the world, I want to take the time to discuss a few themes that have really stuck out to me over the past week, as we’ve all been “Running During (Co)Rona(Virus)”:
Finding the middle ground
Over the past week or so of dealing with the virus situation, I’ve seen a lot of anxiety, frustration, and fear from people all over the globe. And rightfully so! These are unprecedented times, and it’s natural to be concerned about health, finances, and everything else that’s in jeopardy at the moment. However, I do feel like concern and unease don’t have to be mutually exclusive with hopefulness! We can be scared and uncertain about the health and finances of ourselves, our family/friends, and our fellow humans, but we can also get out to run and enjoy valuable time outside while responsibly practicing social distancing. I’ve seen so many of my teammates, friends, and other athletes posting on social media about getting outside and going for runs, and it inspires me to do more of the same! It’s reassuring to see others doing what they love and acknowledging that it’s safe to do so under the right circumstances. We’re all here for each other, even if some naysayers want to demonize what you’re doing and tell you “you’re not being responsible.” There’s a big difference between irresponsibly putting yourself in a position to spread the virus and doing something on your own that benefits your mental and physical health. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
The running community is the BEST community
Certainly not news to me, but adverse circumstances and challenges always reinforce the fact that it’s hard to find a better collective of genuinely good and kind people than in the running community! The main avenue for how I’ve seen this is in recognizing how small businesses have been affected by social distancing. As a professional runner, motivational speaker, race director and running coach, I’ve already been financially impacted by cancellations of races, speaking opportunities and other events. Even the running shop I work at part-time has been reduced to doing business over the phone. I have several other friends and family members who work in industries that are completely shut down at the moment, and it’s a very scary financial time for many people. However, I have loved seeing so many people show their support of locally owned businesses by suggesting great ideas for how to support them! Buying gift cards for shops that are closed; shopping online; making donations; or buying grab-and-go items from stores that have remained partially open. I even saw a friend of mine who owns a bakery offer up a gift card option that wasn’t previously available, because her other friends on Strava were asking about how they could support her! Simply amazing. This group of outstanding people never ceases to amaze me, especially in times of need.
Framing our challenges
My wife and I have joked for a long time that so many athletes in interviews will use one of the following two phrases: “at the end of the day,” or “it is what it is.” Seriously…next time you see some athletes getting interviewed, listen for one of those two phrases! I bring this up because I weirdly believe that the two of those phrases, when put together, are quite relevant to the current state of our world. At the end of the day, the virus is what it is: a very contagious and life-threatening virus. It is not, however, something that must completely eradicate our lives of all happiness! Let me be clear: not taking precautions and refusing to believe that the virus hasn’t affected you or your surrounding area (simply because of a lack of testing) is what got us into this trouble in the first place. I’m not taking the matter lightly whatsoever. What I AM saying is that being a responsible person and practicing social distancing does not preclude you from continuing to do some of the things you love! Sure, you won’t be running the race you signed up for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get outside for a great training run, even during a “shelter in place” mandate.
As a motivational speaker, one of my favorite topics to discuss with my audience is the idea of “framing your challenges.” It’s essentially the idea of having a “glass half full” mentality. In 2016, when I ran across the US and was battling injury issues, I remember thinking to myself early on “how can I possibly run 2,000 more miles across the US when I feel like this?” With the help of my team and framing the challenge differently, those thoughts morphed into “what do I have to do to get 50 miles done today?” Similarly, when I competed on Discovery Channel’s survival reality show, “The Wheel,” I remember thinking on Day 22 that I couldn’t imagine another 38 days of surviving in the wilderness of South America (as the show lasted 60 days). Rather than dwelling on that, I re-framed the challenge and focused on just getting through Day 22, and then I would shift my attention to Day 23 the following day! The next thing I knew, I had successfully run across the US and made it to Day 60 to become winner of “The Wheel.” This pandemic is similar in many ways. We don’t know when it’s going to end, and for me, that thought can be overwhelming. We can, however, shift our focus and reframe the uncertainty to focus on TODAY. Don’t worry about what this virus will look like in a day, a week or a month. Think about how you can be better and help those around you today. If we all do our part and help each other in the present, the future will look a lot brighter!