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Each one of us has stories about COVID-19 and its impact on our lives, our goals, our mental well-being, but it is the emerging from the pandemic which currently holds my attention. How will I approach this sudden freedom to run, to travel and to set goals? Am I happy with my small, contained lifestyle which has been constructed to eliminate risks and challenges? Or do I need to burst out of the cocoon and aspire to those lofty plans from before?

On one hand, being comfortable is comfortable. Fat and lazy is new to me and it definitely has its draw. Although I have kept up some running and more mountain biking throughout the lockdown stages, I have also been quite content to stay at home, putter around with my flock and bake. Some pants no longer fit. I have enjoyed the lack of obligatory miles and the loss of that nagging voice that endlessly reminds me that I shouldn’t be relaxing or content. It has taken 16 months but she has finally toned it down to a whisper.

On the other hand, I feel a real void in my life. There is a deep hollow that needs to be filled. I’m pretty sure I could fill it with any number of hobbies but my fallback is mountains, trails and occasional suffering. I know how to run ultras and, with well-placed effort, it would come back. But it would entail a lot of hard work and I have only just recently realized that long-term comfort feels nice.

But who am I without those ambitions? That is the fork in the road for me. I have always known that my running is 100% goal-oriented. Without an end or a purpose, I am quite content to stay on the sidelines. But with a specific race date, I am the most committed out there.

I do actually have a race on the schedule but not until 2022. My hard-won lottery spot for Cascade Crest 100 2020 was generously rolled over twice due to COVID and ensuing cross-border travel restrictions but, at this point, it is still in the distant future and I have even questioned whether I will toe that line or not.

And so. Who am I and what am I doing with my life?

In mulling all of this over with FM, he let me in on a brilliant piece of running wisdom. He reminded me that I don’t have to win, place or even show, as the saying goes, in a race this season. I could enter a race and essentially plan on using every minute of the allocated time, racing cut-offs instead of racing. The concept instantly resonated with me. Imagine taking the pressure off but keeping the goal of finishing intact!

With my newfound inspiration, I hit <Register> and am now happily on the list of entrants for the Finlayson Arm 100km. This is a race that is dear to me. I have run the 50km twice and the 100km once and I have twice volunteered at the all-nighter aid station for the 100km. I know that out-n-back course so well and love all that it offers. And now I am allowing myself all 25:59:59 to complete it.

Run out then back and repeat
Do this twice!

A thank you now to Robert Frost for poetically rendering my feelings, to my dad for often quoting this poem and, above all, to FM for his wisdom in all things running and his belief in me.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Taken!

The Happy Wanderer

My Paths on Strava

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