Carrie Scace – Harriers President

As we turn the page on the 2020 training season, the thing that stands out most is how these past nine months have challenged all of our carefully-wrought intentions. As runners, we are conditioned to look at the calendar each year, ask ourselves what we hope to achieve, and embark on the necessary steps to get there. ‘There’ is almost always a goal race, and off we go, each January, with that motivation (and maybe a little fear) getting us in our sneakers and out the door.

And then … 2020.

A look back at the enthusiastic participation in our virtual club races and weekly challenges shows how deeply embedded our training cycles are in our routine. Pretty much all of us thrive on the ebb and flow of our training season: the winter build, the early spring sharpening in time for the race seasons of May and June, the recalibration in the summer months when we prepare for our fall goals. We plan for road races, or a romp through the fields for cross-country season, or just long, meandering trail runs that connect us deeply with nature, and, for me at least, perfectly encapsulate why I run

But ‘why we run’ took us to a whole new level of reflection in 2020. We had to adapt to running alone. We had to adapt to running for running’s sake, not for the glory – or frustration – of the finish line. We had to toss out our old way of approaching our sport, and embark on something new. For many of us, and my hand is waving madly here, that might have been just what we needed: a pause, a reset.

My pandemic running life gave me a gift. It’s one I’ve always had, but it became amplified during the quietly chaotic days of 2020: the gift of deep connection within my running community. I connected, one-on-one, with my dedicated posse of running mates, each of whom had a day of the week in which we shared the challenges of the lockdown, and the fear of what might lie ahead. Yes, they got me out the door in the morning (but I am acquainted with myself well enough to know that my conscience always takes care of that. My conscience just isn’t as much fun as my training partners), but more importantly, during a time of intense uncertainty, anxiety, and sadness, they provided friendship, laughter, and love.

But I also connected with myself. There were a lot of solitary miles – a lot of them – and it was here that the quickly changing landscape of 2020 slowed down. It was just about me and my footfall. I won’t ever forget the surreal experience of running down the middle of Mount Pleasant Road on a weekday morning at 8 am, not a car in sight; or the amazing cacophony of the birds on my early morning runs, the birds no longer having to compete with the commuting sounds of the city; or the clear skyline of downtown Toronto from the top of the big hill at the Brickworks on a warm late spring day. I worked through a lot of stuff during those solo runs, and I can’t possibly say it wasn’t valuable. I appreciated every mile. 

And now – I think – there is light ahead. We’re inching toward normal, some of us contemplating a return to racing, possibly by next fall. As a club, we’ll continue to work toward goals, and hope to be training together in the new year. Take this break – this mini-sabbatical that has always defined December – to reflect on what 2020 has meant for your running. Who got you through it? Let them know. What did it leave you with, how did it change you, what kind of existential questions did it ask… and how did you answer?

On Thursday night, we’ll gather as a team (I’ve alway preferred the word ‘team’ to ‘running club’ when I refer to you all), and if you feel moved to share your reflections and gratitude for who or what made the difference during this pandemic year, it would be a privilege to listen. Let’s share our cumulative lessons and toast this crazy year that I can’t wait to see out the door.

Categories: Journal