A broken plan became very much the norm for everyone in 2020. For marathon runners, the cancellation of runs around the globe made it hard to keep up the motivation to continue training. This is how I fought the pandemic to run my 2020 marathon regardless.
On September 6, 2020, I should have crossed the start line of the Medellín Marathon. I visited Colombia in 2018 and I fell in love with the country and its people, so I planned to run my third marathon in this amazing city.
I’ve run a couple of marathons before – Athens in 2018 and Havana in 2019. Medellín 2020 was my next challenge, as part of my goal to run a marathon in each continent.
But then the pandemic got in the way. Lockdowns spread across the globe and I suddenly found my plan extremely hard to follow. Plus, the uncertainty around the event even taking place was taking its toll on my motivation. As expected, a few weeks later events everywhere were being cancelled.
Finding new motivation
To keep me going, I prepared a six-week training plan for running a virtual half marathon. It was challenging with the lockdown restrictions, but something I felt was achievable.
At the time, these limitations meant that I couldn’t travel further than 5km from my home. To overcome this challenge, I started to do laps of an urban circuit I put together in my neighborhood. This gave me headspace to fight the working-from-home anxiety, pandemic news that had spread across media, being away from friends and family and to help me cope with my own feelings and thoughts.
May 3 was a joyful day. I covered the 21 kilometers in 1:50, experiencing the taste of competition once again. Even virtually, it was highly rewarding. However, my 2020 marathon plans looked to be drifting away, with the pandemic hitting harder and harder. I could always join a virtual marathon, I thought to myself, but despite having enjoyed my virtual half I wasn’t quite so motivated to continue the pattern for the full distance. I wanted to do something special.
An idea evolves… In the least likely of places
Around the middle of May, I volunteered to go back to the office once safety measures were in place. I wanted to be as close to ‘normality’ as possible.
At the office I started to bond with a group of colleagues. You know, that feeling of everyone being in the same boat. When the curve started to flatten, and the government began loosening the lockdown we were allowed to travel 20km away from home. Together, we went hiking and cycling just outside of Dublin. Such a beautiful environment needed to be explored and together, we hiked several times during June and July and it was great to be able to make the most of it.
Then August came. The borders finally started to open up once again and so I took the opportunity to unwind and be with my family in Spain for a couple of weeks. It was there that I came to the realization that I could plan my own 2020 marathon and along the way, discover more awesome places around Dublin.
When I got back to Ireland, I shared my plan with my colleagues who immediately offered to support me along the way – food, water and medical support all in one. They were going to cycle alongside me for the entire distance, carrying everything in backpacks. This was the best idea ever!
My 2020 marathon becomes a reality
Then the second lockdown came our way here in Ireland, bringing with it a six-week-long lockdown which ended on December 1. Cross-county traveling was still restricted until the week of Christmas, so I was not able to follow my original plan. After a bit of research, I got myself a great new route here in Dublin, running over mountains and taking in the coastline views.
And I did it. My goal was to run my 2020 marathon below four hours and I did it. With a little help from my friends, I managed it in 3:51, so a big thank you to Giuseppe and Orlando who cycled on a freezing cold morning to keep me going!
The easy option would’ve been to sit the year out and wait for things to settle down. But that’s not who I am. If you’re wanting to do something similar, maybe you can take some of the things I learned along the way.
What motivated me, might motivate you!
If you too are struggling to keep things going, maybe check out what I learned throughout 2020:
- Find friends to do sport with from time to time. You push each other forward and you can follow up your progress.
- Head to the countryside. You will discover new places, appreciate the fresh air and train your legs away from the pavement of the city.
- Set up your own marathon route. Prepare a circuit that works for you or enter a virtual run if that works for you.
- Follow online running communities. In many social media groups and tracking apps such as adidas Running, you will encounter passionate runners sharing their experiences in your city or nearby. This will open up your world, and you’ll discover new routes for training.
- Track your training to measure your progress. I’ll help you to improve for future challenges.
My plan for 2021 should be to run a marathon in Asia, Africa or South America to keep rolling on my plan of finishing a marathon in every continent. But as you know, right now we cannot predict what is going to happen. The only thing I have in mind is to break all of my personal bests in 2021. I don’t know when or where, but I will be training hard to reach this goal. Stay tuned.