For the second straight week I sat down to write the introduction to this newsletter and had it interrupted by news of another race cancellation, this time the New York City Marathon. My fall race, the Columbus Marathon, has not yet cancelled but with COVID-19 numbers continuing to spike across the country it is only a matter of time. My motivation has been flagging since last week and though I am sitting squarely in the middle of what should have been the second week of my fall marathon training bloc, I have not run in a week. I just do not have the motivation to subject myself to the rigors and sacrifices of marathon training without a true race awaiting me. I will keep running, likely training to race under 40 minutes in a 10k this fall (a Thanksgiving time trial?), a goal I have long targeted. For now, I am enjoying working in my garden, hiking, and studying for my nutrition coaching certification.
Without any sort of advance planning this week’s newsletter naturally came together to focus on the two stories that have dominated life for much of the last few months. It begins with a continued focus on anti-racism and racial bias, unintended or not, on display during this year’s Olympic marathon trials. It then transitions into looking at post-lockdown life and, if it served as a bit of a rapid detox program for you, ways you can keep hold of the lessons, practices, and habits you might have begun as you re-enter a more normal routine. Let’s dig in.
This podcast episode caught my eye after I saw Aliphine Tuliamuk comment on one of the central points that podcast guest and running blogger Courtney Carter makes regarding the television coverage of the US Olympic marathon trials in February: that it skewed away from covering the race’s African American runners. It is not a new phenomena. As is pointed out in the latest edition of Mario Fraioli’s excellent newsletter, in the days after Meb Keflizighi’s 2009 NYC Marathon victory, writer Darren Rovell opined that it was disingenuous to dub Meb’s victory an American one (he later apologized). Keep in mind that while Meb may not have then been the household name he would be after his 2014 Boston victory, he had already represented the US in multiple Olympic games and medaled in the 2004 marathon. Across the board in all aspects of life biases, both obvious and subtle, are being re-examined. I admit that I was unfortunately ignorant of Tuliamuk’s status as an elite contender for an Olympic berth despite her inclusion in the HOKA NAZ elite team, one of the most publicity-minded running teams in the world. It is a reminder that those who love running and comment on it need to be more vigilant in how they cover the sport and tell stories that cover the full spectrum of those who run and represent the US.
This old TED Talk from 2009 has been on my mind as of late and I think captures why the frustration that Tuliamuk expressed in the tweet I tagged above, and is being expressed right now by people throughout the world is necessary to acknowledge. Novelist Chimamanda Adichi articulates the need to view society and cultures as a tapestry of differing and overlapping stories rather than a singular coherent narrative. If you find yourself grappling with how to understand this current moment and fit it into the narrative you have carefully constructed during your life, this is a good starting place.
Though COVID is far from gone in the US, lockdowns continue to ease and the shock to the system that was the rapid lockdown response recedes further into the past. The death toll and economic impact of COVID-19 cannot be minimized, but the rapidity of the stay-at-home orders and their length did provide benefits, almost acting as a rapid detox program from busyness and consumerism. I used the time to reintroduce positive habits into my life, divorce myself from destructive ones, and to pick up practices that I had long wanted to make time for, like learning the guitar. It also gave my time to reflect on how I spend my time and if I am best serving my purpose.
However as work has picked up and demands on my time have increased, I have found it harder to stay on top of these new practices. As I pick up speed on the hamster wheel I want to make sure I do not lose sight of the benefits the interruption to normal life provided: time to reflect, a commitment to more meaningful work and relationships, getting rid of clutter (in all forms), and prioritizing what is truly important.
These two articles from Brad Stulberg, though written almost five months apart, represent two solid pieces of advice about how to continue to do the work that will allow you to keep hold of the positives you may have developed during your area’s respective stay-at-home orders and while COVID continues to alter the normal flow of life and commerce.
The early days of the pandemic gave me plenty of time to contemplate what I was putting out into the world (it is one reason this newsletter now exists) and what I could better do to promote what I perceive as my purpose. In this article from the always intriguing Cal Newport, Newport shares some thoughts on how the pandemic, with its tectonic disruption to normalcy in life and work, offers a shift away from digital busyness and an opportunity to slow down and pursue more meaningful work.
This article highlights why I am so committed to making sure I maintain the progress I made in my life, and running, during the early days of quarantine. I read this article from James Clear a few years ago and it serves as a reminder that incremental but consistent progress in various areas of any practice, be it running, business, or areas in your personal life, can lead to change that is greater than the sum of the individual actions. Clear uses the example of British Cycling, which committed in 2003 to implementing a program built around making small gains in a variety of areas to facilitate larger overall gains, to make his point. In my own running practice I have seen the most success when I have committed to consistency in areas outside of my running; short but consistent bouts of strength training, ten minutes a day spent on mobility, consistent sleep, and better nutrition. With racing cancelled for the foreseeable future I am rededicating myself to working to build a stronger foundation in my key running practices utilizing the model Clear describes here.
A Small Request
This newsletter is a labor of love and I would write it even if no one read it (as it is few people right now do). I do not write because I have all the answers but rather because the topics interest me and because writing about them allows me to further explore them, internally debate them, and work through them. I share these links because reading them and thinking about them helps me to be better in my running, in my coaching, in my relationships, and in life. If you read this newsletter and think it would benefit someone you know, I ask that you take the time to share it with them. If you have a question for me or a comment on how I can be better in this space, please take the time to reach out. Thanks.