More Virtual

More Virtual

Last week I finished the Ring of Kerry Challenge I discussed in the July 28 post, How virtual challenges are keeping me motivated and saving my sanity. It was 124 miles and I chose to do it all running. Adding walking, biking or swimming miles was allowed, but for this one, I chose just to include running miles.

We got all decked out in our matching InknBurn Celtic singlet and mask and headed out for our first challenge miles on Labor Day, September, September 7. When I posted an update to Facebook, my sister who resides in Tipperary told me she had been there that past weekend. 

For those working on the challenge without relatives near by to share their real life photos, challenge organizers did a admirable job keeping everyone abreast of their progress, the view from the current location, and the significance of where we were. As was the case with the Illinois Endurance Challenge, street views allowed you to take in the (virtual) scenery.

Then when we reach certain milestones, we received a postcard via email that we could share on socially media or through email. Each post card email also contained several paragraphs describing the topography and local history. It proved to be an appreciable educational experience as well as a physical one. 

You all know I love when runs benefit a charitable organization or some greater good. This challenge checked that box as well. Every time a participant met a completion milestone – 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100% – a tree was planted “to help restore healthy forests in locations around the world.”  How cool is that?

I proceeded through my normal four-runs a week and completed the virtual course around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry on October 15. Roughly six weeks. I know some people who are still logging miles and I know a lot of people who would probably have completed the whole thing in a week.

I logged in my final miles and in less than 24-hours I had an email confirming my medal was in the mail. That’s why we do this, right?

The best part about these challenges is you can make them whatever you want them to be. I ran all my miles fairly slowly. At the same time I was also working on another challenge to run every street in town, but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’re looking for a challenge, I highly recommend going to The Conquerer Virtual Challenges and checking out your options. They are currently offering a dozen challenges of varying distances and locales. Challenges can be done independently or part of a team. You can choose your start date and deadline, which allows almost everyone to set a goal that is realistic.

Next up for us? Well, I’ve always wanted to do the Appalachian Trail. It’s 1968 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. This time of year, I’m glad I’m only attempting to do it virtually. We’re giving ourselves the full 78 weeks to do it. We could have done it as a team, but Kurt just reminded me that a few weeks ago, I said I wanted to do the full distance myself. Of course I did.

More than Virtual: the 2020 Chicago Marathon

More than Virtual: the 2020 Chicago Marathon

Last weekend was Chicago Marathon Weekend. Although not really. There was no Expo at McCormick Place. There was no gear check, no crowds of runners with nervous anticipation along Columbus Drive. There were no start corrals, or music or cheering fans. Another cancelled event. Another reminder that this is a year like no other.

Although for many in this city, race day gear was still laid out before an early bedtime, alarms sounded in the darkness, and without any fanfare they began a lonely 26.2 mile journey on a course of their choosing. They were the committed – committed to their goals, to their training, to the charities and personal causes from which they found inspiration. And they got it done.

I watched in awe as I saw people I knew complete long training runs for this race that was going to be far from their vision when they registered close to a year ago. Last year, I wrote about my immersion into the Chicago Running Community in 2019 and how special it was to be part of that community as we all trained together. We’re all in it together was the theme of several blog posts last October.

Togetherness was energizing. Imagining a virtual race of that distance was difficult for me. I wondered to myself throughout the summer what it would have taken to keep me engaged. After all, it was the people that got me up at 4am on Saturday mornings for long training runs. It was knowing I was going to be part of a movement more than 30,000 strong.

As I watched the 2020 race weekend unfold, I realized just maybe the experience would be very special nonetheless. The personal fans along the course were still there. Families and friends donning masks for safety packed personal finish lines and held a tape for their runner, who in a race against only themselves, would break it as the lead runner.

Organizations like CARA, staffed hydration stations along the lakefront all summer long and on race weekend to provide support. Running groups like 3Run2 assembled (social distant) cheer squads at the intersection of their members’ routes to share that race-day energy for which they are famous.

As Strava recorded the mileage and the times, it became apparent that there was nothing “virtual” at all about this 26.2 mile journey that countless Chicagoans made last weekend. It was their race, their marathon, their achievement. And it was epic. It’s a story that will be passed down for generations as we talk about our resilience: “In the middle of the pandemic, your great-grandmother ran a marathon.”

Congratulations to all of you who got it done! You have an achievement like no other of which to be very proud.

Solo Run. Vernon Hills, Illinois. October 2020.

How virtual challenges are keeping me motivated and saving my sanity

How virtual challenges are keeping me motivated and saving my sanity

Let’s continue the discussion about virtual races we started three months ago with “Do Virtual Races Count?” I still feel my conclusion is accurate, that virtual races should count in whatever way you want them to count, although by July, I had lost interest in them for the most part.

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How race cancellations affect charities and what you can do to help

How race cancellations affect charities and what you can do to help

The Chicago Marathon became the latest casualty last week in a long list of canceled marathons in 2020. Anyone who didn’t see it coming was in denial. Although being realistic about it and being extremely disappointed aren’t mutually exclusive. 

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Do Virtual Races Count? (pandemic week 6)

Do Virtual Races Count? (pandemic week 6)

2020 was supposed to be a big year for me. It’s my 25th year running. I also turn 55 (in 2 weeks!). I planned fun race goals involving “round numbers.” In February I managed to run my 10th marathon before the world changed. Later this year, I planned to run at least two half marathons, bringing that total to 50, and managing similar milestones for the 5 & 10k too (needed two more 10ks to reach 75 and seven 5ks for 125). Everything was on my race schedule!

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