March 2020, the world was on fire, and races were getting canceled, rescheduled, and canceled again. No one knew if we’d ever run another race with spectators. Heck, no one knew if we’d ever run another race, period. Enter stage left, the virtual race.
Now, I know that there are (a few) people reading this who love virtual races. Who cares about the free banana anyway?! Me. I care about the free banana—a LOT.
When COVID hit and the New York Marathon was canceled, 50,000 other runners across the world were devastated, and lil’ ol me was one of them. All that build-up, all that training I had planned, all for...nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. But when my physical therapist asked me if I’d consider running it virtually, I gave her an immediate and resounding, “Fuck no.”
Don’t get me wrong; I love the sport of running. I run when I’m angry, when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I have no idea what I want to write about. Sometimes I run just to run. But let me paint the picture of my first marathon for you, so you understand that races aren’t just about running. There were wall to wall spectators, screaming, cheering, crying, for the runners. Hilarious signs kept me motivated mile after mile. My family, dressed in traffic cone orange t-shirts so that I could see them in the dense crowds. Music blaring from street corners and snacks being handed out by strangers that I gladly ate even though looking back on it, that was probably not the best idea, but WHO CARES, IT WAS A MARATHON! It was the most beautiful and glorious day of my entire life. I smiled from ear to ear the entire time and didn’t listen to music once for four hours and fifty-five minutes.
So, you’re telling me I can still run the race, but I’ll have to run it without any of that? Again, I’m here to say FUCK NO. I am, at heart, a performer. I love the energy the crowds bring, the laughter, the joy, the heartache, the DRAMA. I mean, the drama is what it’s all about, right? Even in the smaller races where the spectators are more spread out, you better believe I am thrilled they are there, cheering me on, aboslutlely LIVING, making me feel like Shalane coming towards Tavern on the Green screaming, “Fuck, yeah!” You can see now that as the world trudged on through the pandemic and virtual races became an option; I knew they weren’t for me.
Okay, so I lied a little. (I’m sorry.) I ran one virtual race this year. It was the most painful race of my life. It was long, tiresome, and while it was for a good cause, I hated every single gosh dang minute of it. I kept looking at my fiancé and saying, “Why didn’t we just go for a run? There is nothing special about this. This is just a regular run. Why are we doing this to ourselves? There’s no finish line. We PAID for the banana!” He had the gall to tell me that technically we pay for the banana at every race, but I wasn’t able to listen through my misery. There were other runners out there that morning who waved, and I wanted to ask if they were also idiots doing a virtual race, but I smiled and trudged on. At the end of it, I looked at my sweet companion and said, “Never again.”
With vaccines rolling out worldwide and states opening up, my fingers and toes are crossed that major races will come back. I hope that I will be able to run NYC this year, even if I have to wear a mask, prove my vaccination status, train on my honeymoon, and sacrifice a lamb. Just kidding, about the lamb part...kind of...but I hope and pray to whatever god you believe in that the marathon will not be a virtual race.
When everyone’s Instagram posts are about all of the virtual races, they are “crushing,” remember, it is okay if virtual races aren’t for you. If you love the drama and excitement like me, I’m here to say that you can shout it from the rooftops that you hate virtual races. They are the worst kind of race! Give me cheesy signs! Give me cowbells! It always needs more cowbell! There’s nothing wrong with running and waiting and waiting and running for the races we know and love to return because they will. And everything will be glorious.
MEET YOUR BEST RUNNING FRIEND:
Chloe is a runner, writer, and actor from The Windy City. She has a BA with honors in Theater and Chinese from the College of William and Mary, and an MFA in Acting (feeling her feelings at a pro-level!) from the New School for Drama. When she wasn’t memorizing lines, you could find her running along the west side highway or in Central Park in NYC. Chloe is currently a member of the sketch comedy house team, Option 7, at The PIT. Chloe and her writing have been featured on Comedy Central, Amazon Prime, Funny or Die, and College Humor. She still thinks running her first marathon was like Christmas Day, but better. Learn more about her acting and writing at www.chloeelizabethlewis.com and follow her running jokes and escapades on Instagram @yourbestrunningfriend.
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