Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Road Not Taken


To do anything truly worth doing, I must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in with gusto and scramble through as well as I can.
                                                                                         Og Mandino

I let a virus defeat me. The Los Angeles Marathon was today and I wasn't there. Now I'm overwhelmed with regret.

Against all medical and governmental advice, the organizers of the LA Marathon, along with the city government, proceeded with the race today. They set up some precautionary steps to make everybody feel safer. The organizers banned participants from six especially affected countries like China and South Korea. They put out more hand sanitizers along the route. And they advised runners and roadside viewers to stay at least six feet away from each other. As if it's possible to corral 27,000 runners into a small starting gate and maintain six feet of distance between each other.

Social media lit up with outrage that the event was still happening. Dozens of conferences, concerts, and other large public gatherings have been cancelled. Yet out of sheer greed, or hubris, the city allowed the marathon to continue. They did however tell runners who aren't feeling well not to come. What a laugh.

The statistics would support the city's decision. Roughly 80% of people infected with coronavirus will get very mild flu-like symptoms, or none at all. The mortality rate is about 1-3% so far. In general, marathon runners are on the more healthy side of the overall population spectrum and unlikely to come down with severe symptoms. So I was actually ready to go ahead and check off another bucket list item today.

Then the hammer came down. My wife was adamantly opposed to me running this race. She called the mayor's office and California governor's office to try to get them to cancel the event. There were online petitions to convince the organizers to stop this from spreading what is already described as a worldwide pandemic. She threatened to kick me out of the house for at least two weeks if I ran.

Finally I had to relent. The negative consequences of running this marathon outweighed the positives. What if I did catch the coronavirus? Even though runners from the six most affected countries were banned, the participants come from all 50 states and dozens of other countries. There's no way the race could guarantee a disease free environment.

If I ran, I could potentially be spreading the disease to my own family before I showed any symptoms. The kids would then spread it to their schools before anybody realized they were infected. I would be out of a job for at least a couple of weeks, jeopardizing our financial situation if even one runner out of 27,000 turned out to be positive for Covid-19.

So I sat out the race. I didn't set my alarm clock to get up at 4:00 AM. I rolled out of bed well after the sun came up, like my usual Sunday morning. But now I'm consumed with what could have been. The weather outside is gorgeous, perfect for running. There was a light rain last night so the air is clean and crisp. The temperature is neither too hot or too cold. There are fluffy clouds floating over the city, providing brief respites of shadow for the runners under the unrelenting Southern California sun. In other words, perfect running weather.

For now I've lost my motivation to keep running. Next year seems so far away and I'm not sure I can keep up my desire for running a marathon that long. I don't even feel like maintaining my strict diet for now. Sure there are other marathons throughout the year. But this is the LA Marathon, my hometown event and one of the premier marathons in the country.

So you'll forgive me if I wallow in my own self pity for awhile and gorge on a pint or two of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Nothing feels worse than self defeat.

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