I’m Not Running the Houston Virtual Marathon.

And yes, I feel like a quitter, but it was the right thing for me.

When the email came through that the Houston Marathon set for January of 2021 was canceled and going virtual, I felt discouraged. I was ready to leave behind all the bad energy of 2020 and start the new year by crossing the finish line with a renewed sense of why I do this. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic affected me so profoundly I bought a charity bib through the Houston Food Bank, supporting them with a donation for the opportunity to run. This was carrying me through the insanely demanding Texas Distance Challenge.  

It’s tough for me to put together the words for this post, but I will try because running is about community, and we all look to each other for support. I know I do. 

I thought about this for a few days. A marathon is one of the most challenging things you can willingly put your body through, and most of it is mental. I know this because I’ve done it. It pushes your limits in ways you did not think were possible. When your body wants to quit, it’s your mind that carries you over that finish line. It takes everything you have. 

Allow me to explain…oh Jesus…

2020 was a little off the rails. Pandemic? Check. Dad in a coma during a lockdown? Check. School, work, family…check, check, check. Um…2020 has been A LOT to handle. Texas has been my safe space and running my outlet. You think really extreme things will never happen to you, and then they do, and every single day it takes every bit of strength you have to put those shoes on and head out the door.  

So, that’s the real girl behind every impossibly positive and borderline annoying IG post of 2020. She had a tough year. She didn’t show that part. She showed you her runs. It’s hard to admit when everything isn’t perfect.  I strive for perfection, some people fake it, but life doesn’t work that way. Stuff happens. And it’s all tiring. It is ok to be tired.

Are you tired, too? I feel you. Let’s get through this together. It won’t last forever.

The marathon cancellation was the last straw. It was the one thing where I’m like…I can’t. I’m sorry. 2020 has taken every ounce of mental strength I have, and I don’t have enough left to carry me through a virtual marathon. A real one? Yes. A virtual one? No. It takes one more ounce than I have left. I’m not ashamed to admit I am mentally exhausted, and it’s ok. 

I wrestled with the decision. I scoured #runhou and #runhou2021 to see how others felt. To see what they were doing. Some people are deferring, some are staying strong. I thought about how much I wanted that marathon finish. I thought about how this would be a great opportunity to push myself and prove I am stronger than this. I thought about that 20 mile long run on my schedule and how exhausting it will feel to know I’ll just be running those eventual 26.2, alone, through this city that deserves so much more. I thought about what we all think right now as runners. Then I remembered we all had a hard year, and what we choose to do about it matters. I sure as hell have nothing to prove this time. 

Comparison would be the thief of all my joy.

I compared myself to the girl talking about how “running isn’t canceled” posed perfectly in front of her mirror with her enviable body and incredible optimism. While I wish I were, I am not like her. Sigh. 

I compared myself to the guy who was mad and asked why pay for a race when you can just run for free around your neighborhood by yourself? Well, he’s got a valid point, but I’m not like him either. No. 

Both fair options, but neither was right for me. Pushing myself was not going to bring me joy this time, and neither would altogether dropping out. A goal and a finish line mean something to me. 

I’m taking the middle ground. I’ve run Houston every single year I lived here, and I won’t stop now. I changed my distance to the half marathon, which I will run virtually. The half marathon is my favorite distance. It’s a good time, and with all the ups and downs of 2020, I’m just looking to do what makes me happy. I’m looking to cover miles I enjoy through my amazing neighborhood and beautiful scenery on my upcoming travels (finally!). Training won’t be my focus for the rest of the year. 

Do I feel any regret? Totally. So much. I’ll always look back on this and wonder if I could have done it, and yes, it will bother me. I am incredibly Type A, but I have to be honest and say my mindset isn’t right for this one, and I accept it.  I’m not ruling out a virtual marathon in the future, but I’m not prepared for it right now. I do think virtual races are great, which I’ll definitely get into in a future post. Don’t hesitate to sign up for one!

If I scale back on my distance for Houston, I can throw more of my energy into the Texas Distance Challenge. The Houston Marathon will return, and I know I’ll cross that finish line again. 

About Christine

Christine Mulvania is a freelance writer based in Houston, TX. After living in six states and two countries, Christine launched her writing career with a passion for connecting audiences and sharing experiences. Fluent in three languages she helps people tell their stories through her expertise in digital media. Christine is a marathon runner, addicted to hot yoga and obsessed with RV travel. Mom to a little boy and two dogs, she loves exploring the city of Houston and getting out into the country in her Airstream on weekends.

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