The Petition for Companionship

If (like me) you live alone, the last 18 months may have been very isolating. COVID rates are high—stay home, only leave the house when necessary, wear a mask in public. Then COVID rates went down. Great! Take off your mask, spend time with small groups of people, but don’t get too close to unvaccinated people and don’t spend too much time indoors. Wait! COVID rates are up again. And now we have the Delta variant. Go back to masks. Do I really need to travel? Is it OK to gather with others? What now? UGH!  All this craziness reminds me of why I race. You may be scratching your head right about now about how I moved from COVID to racing, but stay with me. I’ll explain!

During the shelter in place, running events were obviously cancelled. Major running events can involve 40,000 people or more crammed into a relatively small space. Even small intimate events involve a few hundred to several thousand people. And while they are held outdoors, people can get very close to each other. So, races went virtual. Rather than traveling to Illinois, Virginia, Utah and the other states I had planned to visit in 2020, I ran all my “races” virtually. In other words, I ran laps around my neighborhood. Now there is nothing unusual about my running laps around my neighborhood (just ask my neighbors, they see me do it all the time!). What was unusual about these races is that I did them…alone.

You see, the whole point of racing is to gather with other people. Contrary to common belief, racing among non-elite athletes is not about beating the person next to you. It is about doing your personal best. In other words, it is about beating the YOU that you used to be yesterday. In his book Zendurance, author, Zen instructor, and Ironman triathlete Shane Eversfield defines competition as “the petition for companionship”. Even in virtual races, you post your results on a virtual scoreboard and seek the companionship of others who are doing the same thing you are doing (albeit virtually). In other words, you cannot compete alone.  Competition, by definition, involves the company of others.

Nothing has brought that concept home for me as much as this year’s Santa Rosa marathon weekend. Last year, the race was cancelled for obvious reasons. This year, event organizers spaced the races out with staggered start times and did everything they could to encourage safe COVID practices while holding the in-person 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon races. And best of all, I got to participate with several ladies from our WIM community—Tracie Root, Seema Giri, Meg Keehan, Paula Duran, Emelia Ebendick, Susan Simpkins, Kelly Loyd, and Shannon Sundberg. Several more joined us in spirit because, although they were not able to be physically present in Santa Rosa, they sent group text messages throughout the run which definitely helped us feel like they were here with us. And a fabulous time was had by all!

But not only did we enjoy the experience of racing, we enjoyed the experience of getting together. Much to our surprise, many of us had never met in person before this weekend. Rather, we had gotten to know each other over zoom and had developed amazingly strong friendships through training together virtually. I had even forgotten that I had never met some of the ladies in person prior to this weekend! And that, my friends, is the power of training for a race. When you are united in your goals, your purpose, and your actions, you form a bond with others—even if they are physically far away. So while I still live alone, and when we will be able to get back to getting together with others regularly without concerns is still unclear, I will always have running. And running keeps me close to others. It is the petition for companionship, and I am extremely blessed to have such wonderful companions.

Join us for a virtual group walk or run Monday and Friday at 7am PST/10am EST and Wednesday 8am PST/11am EST 

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