What Happens Now That All Your Races Are Cancelled?

Signed up for a race that has been postponed or cancelled? Lester has some words of encouragement for you.

LESTER TAN BY | UPDATED 4 MONTHS AGO

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Being cooped up at home is no fun. Doubly so if you’re a sportsperson who typically spends a great deal of leisure time outdoors. Nevertheless, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. With COVID-19 spreading rapidly throughout throughout the globe, all of us play a part in flattening the infection curve, even if it means sacrificing the freedoms and activities we used to enjoy.

No one truly knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic would last. There are calculated predictions, but those fancy graphs and complicated figures are guesstimates at best. Playing by the worst case scenario, many races have been cancelled or postponed. Scrapping of notable events such as the Sundown Marathon paved the way for other race organisers to follow suit.

Why train when there are no races to compete in?

Racing represent a significant aspect of running for competitive athletes. Races are milestones that illustrate how far a runner has progressed, and may serve as springboards for future events. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, for example, requires that runners successfully complete a series of smaller ultramarathon races to qualify for participation. It’s of no surprise, then, that the derailment of race schedules have hit athletes particularly hard.

The introduction of virtual races illustrates an attempt to mitigate and compensate for the absence of physical events. Unfortunately, without a palpable racing atmosphere, virtual events pale in comparison to the real thing. Hence, virtual races seldom draw the same level of participation as
expected of physical races.

With physical races cancelled and virtual races being a hollow shell of the former, it is understandable why many athletes are experiencing disappointment and confusion. Alas, there is no better time than now to contemplate on the reasons why we run.

Why we run.

Persistence hunting is largely a thing of the past, with the exception of Kalahari Bushmen and other similar indigenous tribes. In modern societies, running is almost exclusively viewed as a recreational activity. Racing recreates the conditions of a by-gone era whereby fortune and survival meant running faster than the individual beside you. The world has changed, but the basic premise of racing hasn’t. Such is why races are thrilling to watch and participate in even today.

Given the prominence of racing, it’s easy to mistake racing as being the essential aspect of running. On the contrary, the latter is that which motivates us to take on the former. While the extrinsic reasons (prize money, social validation etc.) to run do push us out the front door, it is
ultimately the intrinsic motivations (discipline, personal development etc.) that drive our relentless forward progress in the face of adversity.

The intrinsic reasons to run that define you as a runner are entirely within your control and should remain constant regardless of the availability of races. As such, the absence of races does not make you any less of a runner than you already are. Never lose sight of what got you started running in the first place.

Athletes adapt.

Work-from-home arrangements and virtual meetings are quickly becoming the ‘new normal’, so let’s make the best use of our time at home.

There are numerous online sources offering indoor training advices and programmes to help you maintain your physical fitness. Runners have completed ultramarathons within the confines of their living room. Climbers meticulously scaled the walls of their kitchens. Swimmers found creative ways of utilising their stretch cords. There are a plethora of books and online courses that we can consume to nourish our minds.

Engaging in these activities reinforces the notion that you owe it to yourself to do the best you can given the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic. It reaffirms your personal resilience, your ability to endure through tough times. Such endeavours also illustrate that one thing is for certain:
Athletes adapt.



LESTER TAN

Lester Tan’s interest in long-distance events primarily stem from a desire to test the limits of human endurance. While many may dread the longer distances for a variety of reasons, he views it as a cathartic experience. He says, “Endurance racing liberates my mind of the stresses of daily life and teaches me to appreciate the joys derived from the present moment.”

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