May 29, 2020 was to have been the first day of the 2020 Reno Tahoe Odyssey, a 178-
mile relay race that starts in Reno, courses around Lake Tahoe, to the Carson Valley, to Virginia City and
back to The Biggest Little City. Unsurprisingly, this year’s event was cancelled. My Odyssey teammates
and I were disappointed. Stay at home orders eliminated our ability to run together but provided the
incentive to run more often during each week individually. The weekly run morphed quickly into three
times a week, and we shared our mileage and times after each one, sent lots of encouragement and
emoji high-fives. When we could no longer run shoulder to shoulder, we found a way to maintain
comradery and friendship.
One of the aspects of running I have always valued is the opportunity to lose myself to my own
thoughts. My legs trot me down a given path; my mind follows whatever path it needs. Over the years,
this has proven enormously liberating and illuminating. I have thought through difficult problems on the
trail; my thoughts freed of constraints, running has allowed me to learn, discover, rekindle, redefine the
values I hold most dearly. These attributes of solo running became all the more important in the last
three months. I found structure and solidarity in the midst of isolation.
Running has also been synonymous with training and preparation, an opportunity to push
oneself to do better. The Odyssey served as the beacon around which training was planned, the months
leading up to it a rallying cry to get ready, not only for a grueling and demanding race, but also for the
start the summer. Not so this year. Instead, some of my Odyssey teammates and I trained for a
“virtual” half-marathon, a self-timed event along a course of our choice within a certain time frame. No
water stations or port-a-potties along our route, but lots of support from one another made up for the
lack of amenities. It was actually really fun.
The sport of running reminds us that we have to show up for the important things. COVID-19
isolation has taught that we can improvise by comparing notes after solo runs and we can make our own
race events when the large crowds of a typical race are not in our collective best interest – but we have
to show up for ourselves and for one another. As runners, we should expect nothing less.