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2020 vision: 20 weeks to go until Hennepin Hundred

Twenty weeks from today is the Hennepin Hundred, my second 100-mile race.

There are far too many unknowns related to the coronavirus at this point to know whether the race will be held as planned, turned into a virtual one, postponed until later or cancelled. And, of course, 20 weeks is a long time.

Twenty weeks ago from today was Dec. 28. It was a time of joy in the holiday season, a time to look ahead to a new year and reflect back on the highs and lows of 2019. We didn’t know it then but our world would soon be permanently changing.

Now, deaths from the pandemic are soaring, tensions are escalating and the economic hardships are crippling.

I count myself as fortunate since my loved ones and I are healthy, my employer has kept the core of operations moving forward and I am still able to exercise.

Supporting mental wellness

As I have written about previously, I felt extremely fortunate that my March 50K was able to be held. With the coronavirus starting to take hold in America, I approached the race as an opportunity to shoot my shot — as coach David Roche says — before everything shut down.

With races either cancelled, postponed or in doubt, there has been a surge in virtual races. Today I ran my second virtual race since the 50K, following Operation Inspiration that directly supported the World Health Organization’s pandemic efforts.

Today’s Block Party virtual run was put on by Bigger Than The Trail (BTTT). The organization supports mental wellness through trail running. I’d be honored if you would support my efforts to help BTTT and those who it helps through the counseling services it funds with a donation.

It’s not often that one gets to line up and race against elites like Rob Krar and Amelia Boone. But that’s what I did — virtually — in today’s half marathon. The BTTT Block Party offered runners options ranging from 1 to 100 miles that they could do literally around their block. Since I was not at home at the time, I picked a new route around my hotel.

Unlike other virtual races, the Block Party focused on the camaraderie that runners share. The event officially kicked off at 9 a.m. Eastern on Zoom — because of course it did since this is 2020. But by that time I had already run my race, showered and begun the rest of my day. Later on there were aid station check-ins and a finish line party at 8 p.m., though of course some of the participants doing longer events were still going.

My half marathon went well. Coach Roche had 12 easy/moderate miles on the training plan so I kept it moderately easy and added a mile. My only real time goal was under 2 hours, which I accomplished with a 1:57:43.

But it was not about the final time. The run was all about the journey.

Looking ahead

During my run today for BTTT, I thought quite a bit about the last 20 weeks — though some would insist April felt like 20 weeks. My thoughts were not the doom and gloom variety. Instead, I focused on the joy that running brings me, the cool morning air awakening me during my pre-dawn runs and the feeling of accomplishment I get as my body gets stronger.

And, perhaps best of all, the peace that running brings to me, which is perhaps more important than ever now. The last 20 weeks has also been roughly the time when I have moved my Dad out of his home of 40 years and into assisted living. The actual move went easier than anyone anticipated. However, now I am going through well more than 40 years of memories, belongings, trash, recycling and receipts.

When I arrived a few days ago for this round of work, I was struck by a symbol in the back yard. A single red tulip had risen from where my brother and I last summer cleared out waist-high weeds and trash that had overrun the sidewalk and rock garden.

It was a reminder of the simple beauty of nature. A reminder that from a place of ruin, hope can emerge. And in a way, it reminded me why we run.

We run for the simple beauty of finding flow. We challenge ourselves by doing hard things. We push ourselves to explore our boundaries.

And that's why, in 20 weeks, I will once again line up for the challenge of 100 miles.

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