It’s good to be back. A few weeks ago I packed up the car and headed for the beautiful red rocks of Utah for the St. George Marathon: my first time leaving California or racing any distance since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and my 23rd marathon. As with many things about life these days, nothing about it was quite what I’d hoped for when I registered in early 2020. But – as with many things about life these days – there was plenty of beauty to be uncovered among the rubble of plans made and turned upside down.
The current circumstances of our lives make traveling together infeasible. Marc and I have tried a few times over the past year to plan some safe, land-based trips, but our caregiving responsibilities (of both canine and human variety) have kept us homebound. When the St. George Marathon organizers announced the procedures for automatic entry into the October 2021 race for those who were registered for last year’s canceled event, I took a leap of faith and signed myself up. I was on the verge of burning out between work and school (all of which currently takes place online and requires what I find to be a brain-numbing and soul-crushing amount of time sitting at a computer), so I made the decision not to register for summer or fall classes in the MLIS program this year and figured I’d spend those extra hours in the sunshine and fresh air, training for another marathon. That decision set me back six months in an already very long graduate program.
Rose-colored glasses view: I prioritized my well-being over my work responsibilities for a few months (a radical departure), and actually trained properly for a marathon for the first time in many years.
As I’ve recently described elsewhere on this blog, I am a slow runner. I’ve never been fast, but once broke four hours in the marathon, and always hoped I’d run even faster, and eventually qualify for the Boston Marathon. (The hard way, with a qualifying time, also known as a “BQ,” on a certified course.) I don’t have much natural talent, and training for a BQ would require an amount of time, energy, and commitment that I have rarely been willing to give to anything but my job. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve settled even more deeply into this choice, and it shows in my running. I hadn’t broken five hours in a few years, but with adequate training this time around, I ran a slow but steady, strong and comfortable 4:58 in St. George. This is still a full hour slower than my personal best, and feels like light years from that ever-elusive BQ (which at my current age requires a 3:50).
Rose-colored glasses view: I ran St. George a full hour faster than my last marathon of two years ago. If I can get one hour off … why not two?
I’d missed everything about marathoning, from watching the sun rise over a new city to the bliss of a good post-finish sit.
When I signed up for this race in mid-spring, we were newly vaccinated and full of optimism. I carefully mapped out the next six months of work, scheduled some PTO, and started looking at everything there is to do in and around St. George. (A LOT.) Life had other plans for us, though, including a series of major family health crises, Norma’s continued physical and cognitive decline, and the new wave of breakthrough infections and restrictions that set all of us back. By June we had to cancel at the last minute on a long-planned road trip to see dear friends in Montana, but held out hope that by the fall things would improve. In late August, we officially called it: I would go to Utah alone, and Marc would stay home with Norma, who is too frail and difficult to leave with even the most trustworthy of dogsitter family and friends. I enjoy traveling alone and have done so many times, but this was a blow.
Rose-colored glasses view: I found an affordable little villa through AirBnB with a really nice pool and a whirlpool tub, and reframed my solo excursion as a “retreat.” I slept well, ate well, enjoyed the race, and saw some of the most outrageously beautiful scenery of my life. And hey, from Marc’s perspective: now I owe him. BIG.
Views from Snow Canyon State Park, Dixie National Forest, and Bryce Canyon National Park.
I treasured every minute of my time in southern Utah, where the orange, pink, and red sandstone visible in every direction makes it pretty easy to see everything through a rose-colored filter. I hope Marc and I can get back together someday soon to see even more of it, but in the meantime am grateful for the paid time off, good health, and practical support I have in my life that made even this brief getaway possible.
Want to see more pictures of pretty rocks? Click here to visit my online album, there’s plenty more.