Coronavirus and ultra-trail running, between panic and planning

This weekend runs were all about what goes on these days, the global turmoil, real or not – this is how life around the globe look like for most of us. I was thinking what I can take from running to help me go through this period of my life. Especially since it appears this COVID-19 time is a once in a lifetime experience for most of us. First thought was that we got used to live in an “instant” environment, where everything is literally at the tip or our pointing finger… we learn, consume, interact, communicate, buy, entertain, all in a split of a second. In a 20min net time of a digital episode, we get the background, go into a mega crisis, dive into bottoms and then in 30 sec we gain strength, fight back, and in 19 min “problem is solved” and we still have a 45 sec for a happy ending and credits… Well, reality as we know it is a bit different. It is not only a disappointing realistic observation, it is also a source of dissonance when we face a major challenge: no script, no pattern, no secured happy ending, unknown time frame… a land of uncertainty.

Personally, I do not believe in ‘concurring the fear’ rather in managing it and channeling it into productive activities. So, what was I thinking about while running? I thought about the long journey from anxiety to fear, and how to turn it to determination and action.

Some definitions for a start? Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Panic is a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. All of us may have a fine mix of those as we experience current happenings. Very similar to feeling we may have during preparation, start line and all the way in a long trail running race.

Next, what can I/we do? There are many papers written about managing fear, and in theory they are probably right. I picked those suggestions that I understand how to build upon and resonate with my experience in trail running. This post is probably a reflection of the first suggestion: “Embrace it”. Do not fear the fear. It is there to help you direct your actions, so let it in, its fine. Then “take the time”; life is not a Netflix episode, so take the time, stop for a minute, consider your options, plan, and pace yourself based on the changing reality. Understand the fear, what are your main concerns, and literally write them down. Think long term but break your long-term goal/distance into shorter, measurable and doable actions. Learn, prepare, practice; get as much information about the challenge and reduce the unknown part to minimum. Then, prepare and practice, one step at a time, learn from others (someone else who has accomplished it before? someone written a book?). Stay positive, keep on pushing as if anything is possible. Do not focus on the finish line, visualize success. I find it elevating during stressful moments. Don’t be shy, get help from fellow “runners” with you on the trail, as well as the volunteers at the aid stations. There are plenty of people willing to help, use it, let them reach out for you, you are not alone. And do help others, it will help you face you own fears.

And one day, after we collectively cross the finish line, we will wake up the day after. Our muscles sore, body aces in organs we were not aware of their existence. But we will look back with pride, how we faced our fears, embraced them, got help from known and newly met friends, and helped others. It will become yet another precious moment in our past. We will try to relive moment after moment of that journey and realize how we evolved and grew stronger from it.

And remember “The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer” (George Santayana).

See ya on the trails!

Eyal

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