Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020 Hindsight

Despite most races being canceled, I had a decent running life in 2020. In fact, I've logged 2,855 miles this year, which is 160 more than last year, making it my highest mileage year ever. And there are still four more days left to add some mileage! Below is a graph of my mileage starting in 2012. I'm not sure if I will ever have a year of higher mileage than this year, so this could be a lifetime PR. Part of the reason I was able to log all of these miles was lack of recovery from live marathons, lack of illness, and lack of injury.

Longest run streak
Along with my highest mileage year ever came my longest streak ever: 181 days. From January 14 to July 12 I ran every day, totaling 1,461 miles! The streak started after taking time off from Posterior Tibialis

Tendonitis in January, and ended when I felt run down from the heat and humidity in mid July. I will likely never again have such a long streak because I would typically not go for 6 months without running and recovering from a marathon, necessitating time off. 

If you decide to start a streak, the most important thing to remember is that you control when the streak ends and not vice versa. In other words, the streak will have to end at some point and you want to have it end because you choose to end it, and not because you are forced to end it due to injury or illness. 

I had another long streak between July 17 and November 6: 112 days. This streak ended when I took a rest day two days prior to the Harrisburg marathon. The combination of these two streaks (181 days and 112 days) helped me reach that high yearly mileage total. 

Highest mileage week
My coach challenged me to run a 90-mile week in April. This included the virtual Boston Marathon on April 20, which I ran at my easy pace. I was able to log 7 miles the next day and continue on with about 10 miles a day for the rest of it, including a 19-miler. 

Because I have been working from home since March, I have had more time to devote to running and recovering from my runs. Not having a commute and not having to do my makeup has been a big time saver. I'll admit that I am now spoiled and once I return to the office, it will take me a while to get back into that rigid schedule. 

Virtual races
I'm not a huge fan of virtual races, but when real races simply don't exist, virtual races are better than nothing. I also thought it was important to support our local running store by registering for a few of these. 

  • Cherry Blossom 10-Miler: 1:09:46.  Since the race was canceled and I was already trained, I figured I would get credit for it and appear in the results by running a virtual race with Greg.
  • Boston Marathon: 3:40:02. I ran this race on April 20, which was the originally scheduled date of the Boston Marathon. Their official virtual race took place in September, but they allowed me to use
    Virtual Boston Marathon
    my April race. I was thankful to receive the medal and the shirt!
  • Mother's Day 4-Miler: 26:27. Greg and I raced this one for the primary purpose of supporting Potomac River Running, our local running store. Plus, when races started getting canceled in March, we all thought that by May things would be back to normal! So in my mind I had planned on running this race as a real race.
  • Indianapolis Monumental Mile: 5:58. I ran this one on a track. I had actually run a faster mile in 5:52 two weeks before, but on the morning of the virtual race I felt a little stale and the weather was warmer (it was late June)
  • Firecracker 5K: 20:19. No race report for this one. This is the fastest 5K I've ever run in the summer so I was thrilled with that. We lucked out with lower-than-normal humidity for July 4th and because it was a virtual race, we were able to start it an hour earlier than the live race would have started. It wouldn't have felt like July 4th without a race, so we did it!
I also was a virtual finisher of the Lucky Leprechaun 5K (tempo run) and the Run with Stride virtual 5K (tempo run). The virtual races were an interesting experiment, but I hope to never run one again. 

New PRs
Do you count a virtual PR as a PR? I think so! After all, the "P" stands for personal. Also, if the answer to that question is "no," then what motivation do you have when running a virtual race? If you don't consider the result to be legit, it will be hard to motivate yourself to push hard. Repeating "it matters, it matters, it matters" over and over again helped me get through all of my virtual races. That said, I make a mental note of whether or not my PR was run in a live race or a virtual race. In my Race History, I have all the virtual races in italics. 
  • 1-Mile PR of 5:52 (time trial) and 5:57 (live race)
  • 4-Mile PR of 26:27 at the Virtual Mother's Day 4-miler
  • 10K PR of 41:33 at the live Christmas Caper 10K
  • 10 Mile PR of 1:09:46 at the Virtual Cherry Blossom (although I have run faster 10-milers in live half marathons, so this one is tricky).
That's a good amount of PRs in a year where most races were canceled and I'm 42 years old, either at my peak or approaching my peak.

Loudon Street Mile in July

Real, live races
I did manage to run two live half marathons this year and a live full marathon. The first live half marathon was before all of this started, the first weekend of March. The other was in October in Hanover, PA. That one didn't go so well because of the hill profile, but it was still nice to be in a live race setting. 

I ran the live Harrisburg Marathon in November. Just two weeks later, the state introduced new restrictions which would have made the race a no-go. I am so relieved I had the opportunity to run it, even though digestive issues made the race a slow slog.

An of course, setting a PR at the live Christmas Caper 10K earlier this month was a huge mental boost. Especially at a distance that I had struggled with since 2017.

Predictions for 2021
Of course we all expected things would be back to normal in 2021, right? Not happening. There's no clearly defined goal post for a "return to normalcy" as we know it, which to me means that things will not return to normal within the next year, two years, three years, or maybe ever. I know that sounds pessimistic, but once you set a precedent of closing businesses, canceling events, closing schools for the sake of public safety, then it suddenly becomes acceptable to close/cancel them again.

I don't think large marathons like Boston, New York, or Chicago will occur in 2021. If they return in 2022, I imagine they will be different from how we know them. 

Thinking about the timeline of things, here is what we all thought would get us back to normal:
  • Flattening the curve (March-April)
  • Slowing the spread (May-June)
  • Vaccines become available (July-October)
  • Everyone is vaccinated (November - ?)
  • Everyone is vaccinated from all mutations and new strains (future)
While my outlook for things in general may seem bleak (and I hope I'm wrong), I mainly just focus on what I can control and I do believe that I can have an active running and racing life in 2021, just like I did in 2020. It will mean spending more time doing research, having less flexibility over when I race, running on courses that might not be ideal (gravel, etc), and having a plan B, C, D, E and F. 

We do hope to go to Africa for our postponed safari in August. Right now I am 50/50 on whether or not that will happen. 

Final Thoughts
This year has been stressful for all of us, but I was fortunate to have a stable job that allowed me to work from home, and so was Greg. I didn't get sick at all this year -- no mono -- which is always a win for me. Thankfully I don't have children to worry about and never have we been more confident in our decision to not have children. Running has helped me keep my sanity and if it weren't for my running I don't think I would be in as good of a spot mentally. It has provided me structure, routine, purpose, and excitement. 

Happy new year to all my blog readers. 


  1. Congrats your highest mileage year ever! The pandemic WFH gig has been pretty sweet for running. It is going to be really hard to adjust back to "normal" of running first thing in the morning and having to commute, and I think you're correct that it will be a long time before any of us have to worry about that. Whatever 2021 brings, there will be a lot of running.

  2. This was my highest mileage year ever as well--not by much, but still! Considering that last year I had that prolonged vaccine reaction/RA flare, I didn't even run 800 miles. I am grateful that this was the year I was healthy enough to run so much, because I never needed running more than I did in 2020. I don't think I missed racing as much as most runners, but it was nice to line up and run a few live events. I loved discovering trail running and I am definitely going to focus on that looking forward. Funny thing about that, trail running has made me a stronger road runner. Go figure!

    Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to following your journey in 2021!

  3. You had a very productive and rewarding year Zebra. I recognize what drives you the most in motivation is the FT and attaining the PR. I suspect when your 67, you may likely still view and pursue it that way. It's your nature...they way you are. Whether official or virtual race, the PR is what you consider feel is your PR. Whether it a 5:58 virtual mile, or 5:52 on the track, the 5:52 can be your PR if you feel that was your best and fastest. Qualifying for and running Boston Marathon was always what motivated me to run my hardest. Although I did 5ks, 10ks and half marathons and sometimes ran them hard and fast, it never was about the FT or whether it was a PR, sometimes it was simply, just because I can and want to push myself to the limits. Sometimes in the lessor distance races, it wasn't if the FT was a PR, satisfaction sometimes came from placing in age group, other times, just because I knew I gave it my all irrespective of the FT. Sometimes in the 5ks if I finished and ended up with the dry-heaves when I stopped past the line, that was my measure I gave it all my best..."the puke your guts out performance!"

    Not sure I will ever get back to Boston, but I had a great run while it lasted! Count your blessings you are doing so well these days and relish the moments you train and race, irrespective of the FT or PR. But when you achieve them, all the better.

    Congrats on such an awesome year of running and that mileage volume impressive!

  4. H ha, I am sure you and many others are even more confident in the no-kids decision, indeed! 2020 certainly threw parents a curveball! You managed the year well - pulling off PRs and getting some races in - and the mileage is nice. I also had a high (for me) mileage year, so I wonder if the no races thing helped keep us healthy? I didn't really get injured this year, just a few chronic hamstring things and some little annoying niggles.

  5. Congrats on making 2020 such a success given for many of us in the running world it was the exact opposite... I 2nd your thoughts about races coming back. I'm wondering if they ever will myself given all these mutations. Keep up the good work!