‘My First Race Back During The Pandemic Was Tough\u2014But So Worth It’
Professional ultra-runner Addie Bracy, 34, is a three-time USA Track & Field National Champion and a three-time USA Track & Field Women’s Mountain Runner of the Year. Like many runners, the pandemic completely altered the way she approaches the sport.
I’ve been running ever since I was a kid. My dad was a big runner, and I used to jump in with him whenever I could. I ran in high school and at the University of North Carolina. I basically haven’t stopped running since I was little.
I’m now a trail runner, and running is a massive part of my life. The bulk of my socializing is tied to running—I’ll catch up with friends four or more days a week during training runs. Since I’m not really someone who goes out a lot, running makes up the bulk of my social time.
And then the pandemic hit.
On the one hand, I feel lucky to be in a sport that is outside. Unlike basketball players or swimmers, I could keep on training. But I still took a big hit socially.
Suddenly, no one was meeting up.
At the same time, the running community suffered. Normally runners are an incredibly friendly, supportive, fun group. The nature of going for runs with other people allows for a lot of talking and connecting and is a reason that many people do it. The running community is very tight-knit.
And, while none of that changed, the heart of the running community—meeting up and actually running together—was suddenly yanked away. There were no group runs, no races. It all just…stopped.
I was able to connect with friends through texts, calls, and Instagram, but it wasn’t the same. It impacted me more than I thought it would. I felt a sense of loss and even loneliness.
That went on for the better part of a year.
So I took the pandemic as a chance to focus on advocacy work.
Along with my former partner, Corey Conner, I co-founded an LGBTQ+ running group and support network called OUTrun. We created the organization in 2019 to host group runs and meet-ups at races around the country with the aim of connecting LGBTQ+ people in the running community. We also wanted to encourage members of the LGBTQ+ community to get into running, and create awareness around the lack of diversity in the sport.
Obviously, the groups and race meet-ups stopped because of COVID. But, while we pressed pause on encouraging get-togethers, we started leaning more into advocacy work. We have a leadership team that connects on calls once or twice a month, and we started collecting data from different queer runners on what they wanted to see so that we could work on rolling out best practice recommendations for race organizers.
In a way, the pandemic allowed us time to be more thoughtful about what we’re doing. Now, we’re creating a resource guide for how to make races and events more inclusive, including things like changing the verbage on websites and gender identification during the registration process.
There were heartbreaking stops and starts to get back to racing.
At first, people didn’t know a lot about COVID-19, how it spread, and how to keep people safe. But, with time, race organizers started to feel more confident about providing safe spaces for people to compete. They just didn’t always happen as planned.
There were at least two 100-mile races in the summer of 2020 that that I trained really hard for—and they were canceled just a few weeks beforehand due to pandemic restrictions. That was heartbreaking. It was hard to realize that I would have spent my summer differently if I wasn’t training for them.
Finally, in February, I got the chance to race again.
It was a 100-kilometer (62.1 mile) race through Arizona’s Black Canyon Trail. I didn’t really think it was going to happen, and when race organizers shared that it was still on four weeks out from the race, I panicked a little. I probably could have trained a little harder for the race, but I was wary after being burned before.
I was nervous and excited when race day came. It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking to race, but, at this point, I hadn’t raced in a year and a half. Still, I felt safe. The organizers put a lot of impressive COVID-19 precautions into place. Typically with a race this long, you’d have a friend or training partner be your “crew” to meet you at different parts of the race to give you gear or food. But, because of the precautions, that wasn’t allowed. There was no crew and no spectators—just racers and minimal event staff.
Even at aid stations, where volunteers would usually refill your water bottle, you needed to do it yourself. You also needed to wear a mask whenever you’d be around other people.
It felt extremely daunting to just rely on myself, but it was an awesome challenge to take on.
The race was tough—I questioned whether I’d even be able to finish at one point—but I’m so glad I did it.
I’m slowly getting back into racing more, and it’s so exciting. I’m planning to do the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California in June, and I’m hopeful that it will go on as planned. I’m still a little apprehensive—it could get canceled—but I’m choosing to have faith that it won’t.
It’s been a very weird year, but it feels so incredibly good to be back to racing. I’ve definitely missed it.
Source: Read Full Article