10 Observations From My Pandemic Half-Marathon

I ran a half marathon this past weekend; here’s 10 observations from my pandemic half-marathon.

2020 was going to be my year. I finished my 2019 running season by smashing my PR in the half-marathon and feeling great. 2020 was going to be the year I took things to the next level. I planned on hitting the gym hard, maintaining my fitness and heading into summer training in the best shape of my life.

Well, my gym was closed for renovations for months, then the pandemic hit. Not only did it keep my gym closed, but it cancelled the race I was planning on running. Instead of giving up, I decided to run a half marathon on my own in the fall. So after a long summer of training, I did it. Here’s my observations from my pandemic half-marathon.

Running a race during a pandemic.
En route to a PR.

1. I miss crowds

There’s nothing better than rounding the final turn and hearing a roaring crowd cheer you on as you approach the finish line. Thankfully, a few of my friends showed up to cheer me on, but that’s not always an option for everyone.

2. Laps are boring

Metro Detroit doesn’t have a ton of flat running paths uninterrupted by roads, so I was limited to doing laps around a park. They are boring. “Two laps down, six to go” is not a pleasant thought. I was reminded why I never liked track.

3. Goose poop is slippery

Pretty self explanatory. Goose dung has some oily properties, creating a dangerous situation on the sidewalk.

4. Starting a race on my own time is amazing

WHY are races so early in the morning, especially during fall in the Midwest? What, are we trying to get the race in before the temps hit 40 degrees? These 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. start times mean runners have to wake up as early as 3 or 4 in the morning, just to get fueled, ready, parked and at the start line by the time the gun goes off. But I can start my race whenever I want, not worry about parking and take my sweet time warming up. More races should start after 9 a.m.

5. Getting hit by a car isn’t a concern in a real race

But it sure is when running on your own! While I made sure I wasn’t crossing any roads on my homemade race course, there were a few driveways, and despite my frantic arm waving and blinding neon singlet, Sally in the Suburban didn’t see me, or even attempt to come to a stop before turning onto the street. Not sure I recall having to dodge two-ton Dodges during an official race. We live in a world made almost exclusively for cars, and us runners must never forget that.

6. A fuel plan is important

Unlike a real race, there will not be tables set up at various points of the course, staffed by eager college athletes handing out water, energy gels and petroleum jelly on sticks. I put together a little fuel plan and had my coach (aka my wife) hand me an electrolyte drink and gel at various points of the run. Without it, I would have needed to stash a bottle in bushes scattered about the course, risking theft and vandalism.

7. Don’t trust your GPS

I switched GPS watches earlier because I wasn’t getting very accurate results. My new watch was awesome, until raceday, when it inexplicably decided to betray me worse than Anakin on Mustafar. I did plan for this, and mapped out the exact distance on Map My Run, so I didn’t need to rely on the watch 100% to tell me when to stop. Of course the watch was way off and made me run almost a quarter mile more than I needed, but I was able to go back and figure out my elapsed time at the point of my course that should have been the finish line and calculate my time. I’ll never take a chip-timed race for granted again.

8. Running alone is hard

Pretty obvious, but running alone, oftentimes out of sight of any human beings doesn’t have the same feel as running in a race with other people. There’s no one to track down on the last mile, and no fear that someone is tracking you down as you approach the finish line. It’s just you, your thoughts and a few gassy geese.

9. Watch for sticks

Something you don’t often see on the course of a big race; sticks on the ground underneath leaves. This combo was nearly my demise.

10. I’m glad I did it

I considered just taking the year off and running at a leisurely pace all summer, not training for anything. But I’m glad I chose to try and run a race. Not only did I get my PR, but it kept me motivated to run in one of the hottest summers I can remember. Even though I would have much rather run the wide open streets of Detroit, surrounded by cheering crowds the entire time, I stayed motivated and ran my pandemic half-marathon.