• Coach Jacob Puzey

A Dream Deferred

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

"What happens to a dream deferred?"

- Langston Hughes

Like most runners, the races for which I was training in early 2020 have been cancelled or postponed. These were more than dates on the calendar for me - they were days of reckoning for which I was preparing and into which I was channeling significant energy and resources. These races also represented times when I would connect with friends, family, and athletes I coach while also fulfilling my fiduciary commitments to the companies that support me as an athlete.

These cancellations and postponements have brought with them a lot of unknowns:

  • What should I do?

  • Should I continue training?

  • Should I dial it back?

  • Should I find other goals?

In addition to race cancellations and postponements for myself, these cancellations have created challenges for the majority of those I coach. Should they do a virtual version of the race, defer until next year, shift the focus to another event that has not yet been cancelled or shut it down for a bit before working towards the new date?

Most of us have been training for months (if not years) to run a personal best, to run further than ever before, to finish a race or distance that really challenges us mentally and physically - to qualify for the Boston Marathon or to run a qualifying race for the Western States 100 or UTMB. All of these are worthwhile goals and for many, there may not be an opportunity in 2020 to realize these goals.

So what should we do during this time of uncertainty?

What should we do with our fitness, our goals, our aspirations?

It depends.

When something as novel as COVID19 is thrown into the equation, there really are so many unknowns that it is hard to know how to proceed except to rely on the guidance of those qualified to make such decisions (doctors and public health officials).

In all cases, we should defer to those in charge of the public health of the place in which we reside. Even if we don’t agree with them, chances are they know more than we know about what will be most effective for the health of the communities in which we live.

That being said, here are a few ideas that you might consider.

* In all cases, please defer to the guidance of the governing health officials in your area.

Run a Time Trial

If you are feeling fit and really want to test yourself (and you are permitted to do so by your doctor, public health officials, and government), this is a great way to still have a race day experience without having to deal with race-day nerves.

One thing that many of us love about running is the personal accountability inherent in it. We are responsible for our own training and our own performances. A time trial is a great opportunity to control the variables and test your current fitness.

Think of a way to simulate the goal race for which you have been training within the parameters established by your local government and health officials. If you can do it outside on a course similar to that for which you have been training, great. If you have to do it on a treadmill, that’s fine, too. In fact, it will allow you to control even more variables.

Note: You don’t have to replicate the entire race. You could break the race distance into shorter intervals and try to run them at goal pace. For example, rather than running an entire marathon, you could do 4 – 5 x 5K or 3 mile repeats at Goal Marathon pace or you could do the Hanson’s Marathon Simulator by running 26.2 K / ~ 16 miles @ Goal Marathon Pace.

Again, this may not be exactly what you have prepared for, but it might be a fun way to test yourself and see the progress that you have made.

Another idea is to find a route that you enjoy and have run before and simply try to best your previous time on it. If you are really competitive, you might even consider doing this on Strava and matching your performance against those of others.