Rabbitwolf Creative (@rabbitwolfcreative)
Rabbitwolf Creative (@rabbitwolfcreative)

A canceled race can be extremely deflating, even when you know it was canceled for a good reason.

Weeks, months, maybe even years of hard work have gone into the goal of showing up at the starting line ready to finish a brand new distance, or to do it faster than you’ve ever done before. Some might even train for a race with the goal of winning it.

2020 has been full of canceled and postponed races. In the interest of worldwide safety amid the spread of COVID-19, most spring races have been called off, with summer races starting to go as well. And for each canceled race there are hundreds or even thousands of disappointed runners. (Even if you understand and agree with the decision to cancel or postpone your goal race, it’s okay to be sad, mad, or disappointed — just keep it in perspective!)

But a canceled race is also an opportunity to consider why we lace up our shoes and put in all those miles to begin with. Even if your goal race was canceled, were all those miles, all that hard work, all that earned fitness a waste of your time? We certainly don’t think so. A race is just one day of your life, but most of us who run, walk, work out and explore the outdoors do it for more than that one day. Setting a personal best, or going further or faster than before, can’t be our goals forever if we want to move our entire lives.

Alice Wright is a professional runner with HOKA NAZ Elite, and she was planning on lining up at the London Marathon. It was originally scheduled for April 26, but was postponed to October 4 amid growing concerns over COVID-19. When running is your career, a canceled or postponed race means a lot more. But Alice chatted with us about how she is coping, using the shift to assess her relationship with running, and keeping the big picture in mind.

What was your goal race for the spring? How and when did you hear it would be postponed?

The London Marathon was my initial goal for the Spring and I found out via my news feed on the day of the announcement (around mid-March) that the event will be postponed to October 4 this year. It’s always a shame to hear about changes to the race calendar; athletes train tirelessly for their goals, whether it’s the London marathon or any other spring marathon, and I’m sure a lot of people will have felt disappointed by the announcements.

What was your initial reaction to the postponement? How had preparations been going before the race was called off? Did this contribute to the way you felt when it was postponed?

Last summer/fall I had trained extremely hard (probably the hardest in my life) for the Chicago Marathon and three weeks before I was due to race I was diagnosed with a stress fracture (a runner’s nightmare!). I can hardly explain my feelings of disappointment and despair having got so close to my goal.

Towards the end of February I developed some injury issues related to the healing of the stress fracture that took me out of Chicago. My coach, Ben Rosario, and I tried not to overly panic as training leading up to this was going better than ever, so we just decided I would cross-train for a couple of weeks and do everything I could to get back to 100% health (as quickly as possible). Yet, I was certainly internally panicking as I counted down the days to London [which would serve as her tryout to represent Great Britain later in the summer], dare I say wishing time would slow down, so in all honesty the news of the postponement was not the worst for me to hear personally.

What positive avenues have you found to help mentally approach the postponement? Does taking a big-picture or long-term view of things help?

I honestly think it’s kind of nice that we, as runners, don’t actually have control over the postponement. We can’t blame ourselves and think ‘what if I had or hadn’t done this,’ like you can with injuries; we aren’t the ones who have to make any tricky decisions here.

Do you have advice for those having a hard time dealing with the cancellations?

It’s easy to internalize disappointment in times of despair, but without wanting to seem insensitive, if we take a step back and put these cancellations and postponements into perspective, there are far worse things going on in the world right now; and that’s coming from someone whose whole life is dedicated to racing! People are dying and economies are struggling.

Running is not cancelled.

And that’s one thing we should be grateful for. A postponement is not a cancellation, and whilst I do sympathize with those who have trained so hard for a race goal; sacrificing their time and energy, and who now feel that it was a waste (I’ve been there myself, trust me!), we have to keep the bigger picture in mind. We can only control what we can control; we just have to simply accept what we can’t. Accept, adapt, and adjust.

How does the current situation make you reassess your relationship with running?

As a competitive runner I get so fixated on racing and achieving personal bests that I often forget why I chose this sport in the first place.

Yes, racing is hugely important to me; it’s a time to showcase all your hard work and really see what you’re capable of. But there is absolutely no denying that just the raw act of running is what brings me the most joy and, as cheesy as it sounds, makes me feel alive. I think it’s greatly important for us to remember that running isn’t all about competing, whether that be against ourselves or others, but rather how it makes us feel.

In times of uncertainty, with competitions postponed indefinitely and laser timers shut down, with friendly debate taking place more on screens than in public, know this: your current personal best is best for all of us. Concentrate on what version of ‘best’ you can do, and aim for it.