Adaptation is the name of the game. 

In order to succeed in this sport you must have the ability to adapt. While we all wish we could just toss our shoes on and instantly run our goal paces on a daily basis, that’s not reality. Nothing about this sport is consistent. You can have the best run of your life one day and struggle the next. It’s the cruelty of the sport.

We adapt by attempting to make everything feel almost second nature. We repeat seemingly endless miles, intervals and drills to prepare ourselves for anything that may happen in a race. In college we would segment courses and utilize race simulation workouts to ensure that on race day we were ready for anything that was thrown at us. The repetition provides you with the confidence necessary to chase that next goal, to push you when things get tough. In a perfect world this would lead to success.

All the simulations in the world can’t control for every variable. Years of racing have taught me that. We’ve all had days where we’ve felt everything was set up to go right; workouts have been going incredible and a goal seemed like an afterthought. Then it happens; things begin to fall apart and you’re forced to make a quick decision, adapt or be left behind. Sometimes you’re lucky and catch that crucial moment of decision, other times you’re caught and left wondering, what the hell happened?

The 2020 Boston Marathon has been my motivation to train for almost the past 12 months. It convinced me to chase the marathon but also broke me. As I stood at mile 22 panting, drinking as much water as I could, I thought to myself, I’ll be back there. Since I crossed that line, that has all I had been thinking about. When runs were rough I was reminded of that moment. When I was sidelined before Columbus I kept Boston in my mind for motivation to stay healthy.

Over the past 3 months I had been working hard to stack up the miles and stay healthy for Boston. I was running some of the strongest workouts of my life and was quickly approaching the end of my buildup; the first time I would have completed one without an extended break due to injury. Pace work was coming across nicely. I was recovering well and I felt like I was ready to redeem myself. As April 20th came closer I was more and more confident. I was ready for whatever Boston could throw at me.

I wasn’t ready for it to be cancelled.

All the training in the world doesn’t prepare you for that. How do you motivate yourself to run the next day when the race you’ve been training for is no longer happening?

The only blessing that a running career full of injuries provides is the understanding that often those goal races won’t happen. I believe that you should level out those peaks and valleys from running as often as you can so that you’re not shaken by anything that could happen. There needs to be something more. A new goal ready to fire as soon as anything happens, good or bad.  Whether it’s in training or in the middle of a race, you have to be able to create something for yourself to keep you going. Motivation is much easier to maintain when you’ve become accustomed to having to constantly create your own why.

While many others have completely shut it down following their race cancellations I’ve continued to keep training as though Boston was still scheduled. Instead of training for a peak race coach and I decided to use this as a chance to simulate a full buildup to see what works and if we need to make any adjustments for the next one. A Spring Marathon is not happening but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to work so that we’re prepared for whatever the next one throws at us. As the goals change, we create new ones, and celebrate what we’ve accomplished along the way.

Boston may not be happening but today I finished my first full buildup and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. I’m celebrating that and I strongly encourage you to celebrate your own accomplishments in this time. Yes we may not be racing but we just came off weeks or months of training in some tough conditions. Celebrate your commitment. Maybe you ran your longest run during this block, heck maybe you’ve decided to start back up again after a long hiatus, celebrate that! Use that as a stepping stone to your next running endeavor.

We can either let this break us or we can use this to make us stronger. All of our races are cancelled, yes, but we’re all in this together. No matter what level we are at, we’re all in the same boat right now. Use this time to go back to your why or even just to create your why. Look long term at what you want to get out of this for yourself so that when you finish your next race you’re not wondering what’s next or feeling that post race comedown that many of us feel after a big accomplishment. Take advantage of the online community of runners and talk to each other. Eventually we’ll be all back on the start line. Until then, let’s adapt and move forward.


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