The 2020 Boston Marathon = OFFICIALLY CANCELED

“This marathon training cycle (this season) is about the mind.”

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The 2020 Boston Marathon is officially canceled — or went virtual — which means canceled because much of the experience is being in Boston soaking up the rich history and surrounding yourself with others who fought to snag a bid to run the race.

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised the Boston Athletic Association made the decision to cancel, and, really, it probably was the right call. Many international runners wouldn’t have been able to participate because of shutdowns, and I’m sure there would have been too many stipulations on social distancing that would have completely altered the experience anyway. 

But even though I kind of figured it would get canceled, the sting of the official announcement was still very real. It hurt. It hurt knowing all the hours that went into training to qualify for the race, and it hurt knowing how patient we all had been when it was first postponed to now canceled. It hurt most knowing what I went through between qualifying to now and not getting a shot at my victory run this year. I don’t consider the virtual race the experience of a lifetime. 

Here’s what I mean by what I’ve gone through from the day I qualified to now …

  • I qualified at the St George Marathon in October of 2018.
  • Then on a wintery run, I slipped on black ice and broke my ankle in December of 2018 (off my foot completely almost three months.
  • I began learning to run again in June 2019. I say learn to because I started at a 10-second run and 5-min walk and had to slowly progress back into it. Every step was painful, it still is much of the time today.
  • In the fall I did more running than walking, and I started running more consistently in October 2019. 
  • Then November 2019 rolled around, and I had to begin training for the 2020 Boston Marathon (after not running much, this was a feat in itself)
  • The marathon was postponed in April due to Covid-19 and rescheduled for Sept. 14, 2020
  • This past week the race was officially canceled for 2020 altogether.

The good news is that they ARE running the race virtually for any 2020 qualifiers AND we are able to re-apply to run in the 2021 Boston Marathon.

Thankfully, with a 12-min buffer in my qualifying time, I’m fairly certain I WILL be there next April. This has been a rollercoaster of a ride, but it is an event that will go down in history, so I guess I’m glad to be a part of it. 

I know others are in the same boat of disappointment. We all have our own stories of how we qualified for Boston and what significance the race has in our lives. My heart aches for those who qualified for the very first time because they may not get a shot at the 2021 race. 

Here’s what the official announcement in my email box said: 

Dear Marathoner,

“We hope this message finds you healthy and well. Today, we write to notify you that the 124th Boston Marathon will be held as a virtual event, following Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s cancellation of the marathon as a mass participation road running event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual Boston Marathon will be complemented by a series of virtual events throughout the second week of September.

“Our top priority continues to be safeguarding the health of the community, as well as our staff, participants, volunteers, spectators, and supporters,” said Tom Grilk, C.E.O. of the B.A.A. “While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon.”

I feel as though the B.A.A. is trying to make it right and doing its very best. We will have an option to run virtually in September for the 2020 race, and we will also be allowed to register for, and hope to be accepted to, the 2021 Boston Marathon. The only catch is that there will be a pool of about 60,000 runners, if not more, vying for a spot and definitely not enough space for everyone. The 2021 race will consist of qualifiers from September 2018 through March of 2020. The fastest times in each age group wins out. 

This means the time buffer a runner needs will be significantly higher than normal. I believe the average time buffer needed for 2020 was around 1 min and 39 seconds, and this was after increasing the time standards and making them more difficult. My guess is that we’ll need at least a 4-minute buffer to ensure a spot in the race.

Why does it all matter anyway? It’s just a silly little race, isn’t it?

Well, it is just a race, but to runners it plays a significant role and is highly sought after in the community. When you run in Boston, it’s a way of separating yourself and getting a chance to run with the best. For a day, you feel like an elite without actually being one. 

I consider this Boston Marathon my victory run. All that I’ve gone through in the past two years, all the struggles I’ve had leading up to the race, they make it even sweeter of a victory. 

Then I keep asking myself, why does any of this matter to you? If you were slated to run in the 2020 Boston Marathon, it would absolutely matter to you. But if you weren’t? If you don’t care about running? I thought for quite a while before deciding to record this episode because I didn’t know how well it would relate to you, my listener.

I think we all can relate to a form of this in our own lives.

The struggles we go through, our disappointments we encounter, our circumstances we face … all of them can lead us into our victory run, but the path is unknown. We don’t know how long the struggles will last. We have to find ways to turn that disappointment into the positive. We have to find constructive ways to react to our circumstances. 

Have you had disappointments in this season? I’m guessing you have, and you are struggling through your own trials and tribulations of today. And that’s why this episode matters to you.

We only have control over two things: our actions and our attitudes.

But these two things are huge and matter! We can’t control these circumstances or the weather or other people. We can’t control that the marathon was canceled (or rather than a marathon, you can insert your event or disappointment in there). All we can control is how we will react to the circumstances in front of us. 

The best advice I can give if you are a qualifier is to enjoy the journey. This is the first time in Boston history they’ve had to cancel the event, and we will be the first — and probably only — virtual Boston runners. Think of it as an epic year and choose a positive attitude toward it. 

I encourage all 2020 qualifiers to make the most of the virtual race.

Train to make it more of a pleasure run out in nature. Find a fun place to create your race course. Don’t train for speed or time goals. Train because you can. Train because you earned it. Get out there and prove to yourself that you are meant to be a part of the elite club. You earned your spot by qualifying, so now show your support by running. Then in November, you can train for a time goal, work on speed, and get out there in the 2021 race and kick some butt! 

Training for a virtual race is slightly different from training for a physical one, especially right now, as we embark on the hotter season. I would encourage runners not to overtrain but to work on strength and agility. This is because the adrenaline of race day just won’t be there. It’s a completely different atmosphere running alone or with a buddy than standing at the start line with thousands of others rearing to go. 

You may feel alone in this season, and if that’s the case, I encourage you to find a buddy you can link arms with and get through it together. Accountability and community are the two things that will build you up and keep you going. These two essentials create strength in your life. When the going gets tough, the tough find community and support! 

This marathon training cycle (this season) is about the mind.

It’s the perfect time to work on the mental training, which, in my opinion, is as important — if not more important — than the physical training itself. This truly is Mind Over Marathon.

My next book is dependent on my running, and finishing, the Boston Marathon. It IS my victory run, and I know it is many others’ as well. Their stories of overcoming, of struggle/victory, of training when they didn’t want to, of fighting the mental battle raging inside … these stories need to be shared, and we will have our victory run.

Don’t give up on your dreams! There will be bumps along the way, but it’s just a part of the adventure. Don’t let the giants take you out. Your dream is worth it. You are worth it. And don’t you ever forget that!

I believe in you!

Step into the fire and come out stronger!

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