Social Distances

Sunday Runday, and that familiar epic-tired-queezy feeling is settling in for the afternoon, and I don’t remember if it’s a good thing or the part of the long runs that I didn’t like.

I hadn’t run more than a dozen kilometers in the better part of a year, certainly not over the winter, and during the heights of restrictions I was dutifully cranking out a ten klick run to keep up the milage, but last week we topped out at sixteen and this morning someone suggested adding a few more onto that.

Nineteen kilometers of river valley trail later, I’ve showered, eaten lunch, and am sipping at a big glass of ice water, but still: Epic-tired. Queezy. So familiar.

The restrictions opened up a little more this past week and we were able to be even a little more social running these longer distances, gathering in as big of a group of friends as I’ve been around in months, even if it was just ten of us in a parking lot lacing up for a long trot through the trails and trees, across bridges, and down winding, root-tangled dirt paths.

Those kinds of distances evoke post-run feelings that I haven’t felt in almost a year. I have these people back again to urge me further and faster. So we do.

But right now I think I might need a nap.

One Part Perspiration, One Part Inspiration

It’s Sunday Runday and I slogged out another solo ten kilometer run this morning as I await the official lifting of a few of those pandemic restrictions later this week.

And though I should have spent yesterday afternoon running twenty-five klicks through some local trails, I found I struggled more than usual this morning just knocking off ten.

All my training, it turns out, is as much about inspiration as it is about the actual mileage.

How to Get Inspired To Run

Set a Race Goal

And even though there is not much left of this racing season save for a long list of virtual competitions, I find myself wondering if I might have been to hasty in declaring my reluctance to enter any of these. In fact, my next door neighbour (someone who is not generally a runner) stuck her nose over my fence last week to let me know that she’d signed up for the our city‘s annual ten kilometer run, and all weekend she has been logging some of her own solo mileage around the neighbourhood. She’s probably logged more than me, to be honest. A race goal marks a very specific X on the calendar with a clear objective. Virtual or not, this gets a lot of people off the couch and onto the paths.

Set a Mega Goal

Back when I wrote a more personal blog I used to try to give some additional context to my readers (mostly friends and family) about the kinds of distances I was clocking. I called these my mega-goals, as in I was going to run from Edmonton to Vancouver, a distance of about eleven hundred and fifty kilometers. I was going to do this “on paper” as in, I would incrementally log my distances day by day and week by week, plotting them out on a map and updating my blog readers with posts, maps, and explanations of how far I’d run. It was also a huge personal inspiration, knowing that I was only twenty klicks away from crossing that border or five klicks away from such and such a town.

Of course, you can combine this with a virtual race such as a couple of my friends did recently competing in the Great Canadian Crossing each logging a mega fourty-eight hundred kilometers over the last twelve months.

Write it Down

Or post it. Or blog it. Or Instagram it. I put all my runs on Strava which is a great big fitness social media network for athletes of all ability. I also previously posted a spreadsheet that I use to track all that stuff. It works. Accountability to a formalized accounting of all those numbers can inspire us to do all sorts of things whether we do it to log a streak, get the virtual badge or not be left out of showing up on the activity feed on a Sunday morning.

Run with Friends

And last, but definitely not least, the one that keeps me most inspired is having others to run with. Just this last week I was sitting at my desk feeling sorry for myself as work was wrapping up for the day. My phone chimed and one of my run crew’s name showed up on my phone with a “I’m working in your neighbourhood. Up for a short run?” I replied in the affirmative and had my gear on ten minutes later. He got off work. I got off work. We ran a solid seven klicks before supper, and probably seven klicks neither of us would have run alone that evening. I often say one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life is take up this running sport, but half the reason I say that is because of the people I’ve met signing up with a running crew. I’ve run a multitude of races, logged thousands or tens of thousands of kilometers, and kept in great shape. A year of solo-ish running has made me realize that’s in no small part to having other people to inspire me onward.

May Long Weekend

Just like the saying goes not to wear white after labour day, locally there seems to be a start line for the summer season: May long weekend.

As of posting this I’ve wrapped up my work week and I am planning how to spend the first official three day weekend of the vague, loosely-defined stretch of relative seasonal warmth that begins… um… now.

Planting the Garden

As evidenced by the mid-week snow storm we experienced on Tuesday night I was right to put off planting my seeds until, as my grandmother advised me, the May long weekend. Now I’ve got a small collection of packets containing seeds for lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, beans, peas, and other eclectic veggies that caught my eye… and they are going in the ground before I go back to work.

Priming the Yard

While I’ve casually poked away at this for the last month because the weather has been cooperative, it’s time to get serious and get up to my elbows in soil and grass clippings. Everything needs either a trim, rake, edging, turning, tossing, or pruning, and this weekend is prime time to tackle that chore before the real growth season kicks in and I can’t keep up. That new lawnmower is going to get broken in by the end of the three-day break.

Summer Training

The trails are bare and the weather is perfect. While I may not be tuning up for any particular races, for the last dozen years spring and the May long weekend has always meant that it was time to get serious about summer running training. I would like to run a half marathon this summer, even if it is just a quiet, lonely run tracked by nothing other than my watch. That said, my whole crew is vaccinated and the restrictions start to lift next week so something more social is probably on the agenda somewhere.

Family Campfire

I’ve already been excitedly posting about my early dabbling with the backyard campfire, and have posted a couple learned lessons from the action-so-far. That said, the summer plan was to crank up the heat (literally) on my outdoor culinary efforts and May long weekend is looking to be a beautiful, sunshiny opportunity to spark up some coals, break out the cast iron and roast up some meals outside.

Local Adventure

And finally, while we still can’t go too far I plan on taking the dog and the family for a good local hike to explore some river valley trails or the winding paths through the local creek ravine. The news was already warning folks to heed crowds in popular parks and recreational areas around town and outside the city, but my years on the trails have earned me some secret knowledge about interesting places to check out that will likely be less crowded.

Race, Off

Sunday runday, and it was about just a month ago I was lamenting the upcoming lack of race season.

My running partners were all busily signing up for virtual races that seemed to me as little more than paying for a t-shirt and a medal. Meanwhile we would all tell ourselves that the difference between running around the neighbourhood this weekend as opposed to last weekend was that this weekend was a virtual race. Wink wink. And about ninety-dollars in race fees.

I would run. But this year would be a season of no races.


Until Friday night there was an exception to all my lamenting.

The long-shot was a local late-May ultramarathon of various distances that we’d all signed up for in the first days of twenty-twenty. Over a year ago. Trained and ready when COVID sprung. In April of last year, we each recieved an email that the race had been deferred for a year in hopes that the pandemic (which surely wouldn’t last more than a couple months, right?) would be a distant memory. We would all race again next year.

This year.

So it went that on the last weekend of May 2021, four weeks out from writing this, I was due to tackle the Blackfoot Ultra for another go. Twenty-five kilometers of the “baby ultra” distance through the rolling trails of a nearby natural preserve area.

Friday evening the fateful email came again.

Due to COVID the race organizers, unsurprisingly, were unable to obtain a permit from the local health authority to host a couple hundred racers and support crew for a daylong event. Every registration has been deferred yet again to twenty-twenty-two.

The single, solitary race for which I have been registered now for nearly a year and a half is now officially thirteen months away.

Race, off.

I could grumble here. I could write that all those hills we’ve been running were all for naught. That my push to recover from some joint inflamation over the last couple months so that I could keep up my distances was a waste. Or that somehow my motivation was only sparked by the prospect of that looming twenty-five klick weekend less than a month away.

I could.

I won’t.

We’ve all made so many sacrifices this past fourteen months that I can’t account for this as more than another disappointing blip.

It’s another opportunity to reshape my training plan. A chance to think about what I want to get out of a summer without any races at all. None. What that means to my week-to-week training and how I can use that freedom to explore the city’s trails again this summer.

Perhaps a running streak?

Or some adventure running, looking for trails I’ve never met before.

Maybe just enjoying the time with my cohort without any pressure for pace or distance.

The last of my races may be off, but I’m thinking of it as an opportunity.