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Goodbye to 2020, time to dream big in 2021

We all realize that when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31 and the calendar turns to 2021, we don’t automatically get a fresh start. We will get to breathe a sigh of relief that 2020 has passed and embrace the endless possibilities of a new year.

The coronavirus will still be threatening millions around the globe. The social-distancing measures will still be part of our daily lives. The limitations on large-scale events, like races, will still be in place.

I feel fortunate that I was able to participate in three races during 2020, two pre-pandemic and one before the surge in the fall took hold. Among the races was the Hungerford Marathon, a trail race that due to course re-routing was technically an ultra at 28.3 miles. I had a blast at the race and have a 15 percent off promo code for the 2021 race for the first person who contacts me to register.

Hungerford was a backup plan to the Hennepin Hundred, a race that I deferred and was eventually canceled. Right now, it is the only race in 2021 that I have entered. I will patiently wait out the first four to six months of the year, putting in the consistency in training that became a mainstay in 2020.

For many of my coaching clients, they are motivated by participating in fun races. And there is certainly understandable disappointment when they don't go off as planned. There's nothing we can do about that.

However, the bigger picture is that we are healthier, stronger and (I'm assuming on this one) happier now than before we started this journey. Running brings us so many physical and emotional gifts. And those are much more precious than a shiny medal. Because you are a runner, you are winning life right now. And that's pretty awesome in this time of uncertainty.

So what’s the best way to approach racing in 2021? Here are my recommendations:

1. Be patient. Your goal race, or favorite local one, might be in the first half of the year when events will still be restricted in many places. That’s OK. It’s a good opportunity to look for a new goal for the year, ideally one that takes place later in the year. 2. Train consistently. This is the longest training block most runners will have experience. It may seem like we are chasing a carrot endlessly. However, as we have seen in a few elite-only level races, this consistency in training is paying off with some amazing achievements on race day. While the elites are on a different level than us, the consistency in training will benefit us, too.

3. Practice fueling. I have some runners who are involved in long-term training plans for their big goals in 2021. We are using this time to practice fueling. This gel doesn’t sit well with you? OK, let’s try another one. Use this time to get dialed into all your nutritional needs, as well as hydration and gear.

4. Think small. It still may be quite some time until we see a major race like Boston, New York City or Chicago return to 2019 standards. Yet smaller community races like Hungerford are demonstrating how races can be held safely amid a pandemic. Masks are required. Runners are spread out. Aid stations are “no touchy” zones.

5. Dream big. Last but not least, this is my personal theme for the year and one that I am encouraging my runners to follow. So, our goal race has been canceled again but we have all of this fitness built up, what do we do? We dream big. Perhaps there is a distance you’ve never run before, this is a perfect time to build toward it. Or perhaps you want to try to PR at a particular distance, this is a great time to test your fitness. Another idea is to think beyond races — try setting a Fastest Known Time, or running every street in your city like Rickey Gates popularized, or create your own challenge.

For me, I am going to look at quarterly goals throughout the year, with Hennepin being the final one in October. I haven’t locked in the others yet. But I have a fairly good idea on an FKT that I will pursue. Until then, I’ll follow my own advice on the aforementioned tips as well as coaching my runners on the same.

And perhaps most importantly, after the nightmarish 2020 we’ve all experienced, we can all leverage what we’ve learned, the fitness we’ve adapted and the joy we have found on the run into one amazing year of running and life.

We will get there. One step at a time. And one big audacious goal. Dream big.


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