2019: the last complete year of racing before The Great Void

2 02 2021

My previous post almost 10 months ago caught up a lovely summer of racing in 2019 — actually the last lovely summer of racing since then, which I had no way of knowing at the time. The fall of that year brought another 2-state destination race jaunt when I visited Oklahoma and Kansas for a 5k Saturday and half-marathon Sunday weekend.

Having already done a few “5k then half-marathon” outings, I had originally been planning to stretch the endurance envelope with a 5k Warrior Dash OCR on Saturday followed by the half on Sunday but the folks at Warrior Dash filed for bankruptcy and I had to change plans at the last minute.

So I headed off to Stillwater, OK for Eskimo Joe’s Juke Joint Jog instead of an obstacle course to start off the weekend’s events. It was sunny but quite surprisingly cold when the day began. It quickly warmed up as race time drew near, and ended up being comfortable enjoyment instead of a shivery slog, and a great start for my trip. The 33rd annual race put on by the local college watering hole, Eskimo Joe’s Juke Joint, featured a course which wound around and through the Oklahoma State University campus. Apparently both the bar and race are well-attended local favorites which are famous for an annual street party as well as the 5k that raised $12,000 in 2019 for the United Way charities.

No photo description available.

After the race, I drove north to Wichita KS for the Prairie Fire Fall Half Marathon — a redemption race for me. I had tried to run there once before, maybe 7 or 8 years ago, only to be felled by a sudden flare up of chronic right Achilles tendonitis which has come and gone many times over the course of my running life. I made it all the way to Wichita on that occasion but was in too much pain to run, even after I downgraded to the 5k, when I awoke to find I could barely walk across the hotel room without wincing. So this was going to be “my year” to run in Kansas and cross that state off my bucket list once and for all.

I attended packet pickup but skipped the pasta dinner and settled in at the hotel with my usual race-eve light dinner and 2 beers. I had plenty of energy chews and bottled water on hand so I got all my gear together and readied myself for the next morning’s competition. The usual night of fitful pre-race sleep followed and soon I made my way to the race site still under cover of the night sky and milled around with everyone else as we waited for the festivities to begin. Looking back at the obligatory race morning selfie I seemed pretty happy at the time, even if a bit sleep deprived.

Oddly enough, I don’t remember a lot of the details of the actual race itself beyond the customary loping along and enjoying the scenery. At one point, my son texted me (he has an unusual talent for messaging me during races) and I sent my standard reply of “I’m running.” We have a standing joke about people on TV who are always smiling as they run, so he must have answered back something like “are you doing The Happy Run?” because I found this photo I sent him showing me doing just that. Judging by my change of clothes, it must have warmed up quite a bit at the point too.

Towards the end when I was tired and a little bored, I started to notice the signs and began to photograph them. As much anyone loves racing, there always come those moments when you say to yourself, “HOW MUCH longer do I have to go?!” in wondrous amusement at why you keep thinking this is such a great idea.

Had I known The Redemption Race of Wichita in 2019 would be my last half marathon for over a year, I certainly would have committed more of it to memory. It was the 46th state of all 50 in which I had pledged to race some ten years before when I was a fledgling runner caught up in the excitement of destination racing. But by 2019, although still a beloved pastime and hobby, this trip was also merely more of “what I do” and not the childlike thrill of those early days — obviously, since I’m just now writing about it 16 months later. However, one of the many lessons I learned from the Great Void of Covid-19 was not to take anything for granted ever again because little things, big things, and even silly mundane things can be snatched away in the blink of an eye or the invisible spray of a cough. Cherishing each race, every trip, and all the memories plus committing them to paper while still fresh is something I will not neglect again.

The weekend stats from Athlinks are shown below as is the photo I published on Instagram upon returning home.

Next up: 2020.