First Race in a Pandemic World

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First Race in a Pandemic World

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Terrified, I put on my shoes and walked over to the canyon. I’m always nervous before a race - where will I place? What if I can’t finish? It’s adrenaline talking. This time, it was different. For the first time since early 2020, I was competing in a race, outside, with other people. When I signed up, the case count was the lowest it had been since the original shut down. I was nervous, but excited. Then Delta exploded. As the numbers climbed, I tried running with a mask that week. Two days before the race, I made it 3 miles and had to take it off. This was the Hot and Hilly 10K I was prepping for. It’s over 90 degrees and the course is all hills. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the mask the whole time. I also knew the course had narrow parts, wide enough for only one runner. What happened if I got in a group? Was being outside enough to dissipate the virus, like current advice suggests? Or is Delta more potent? And is there a difference between standing outside unmasked and running full speed unmasked in a group of other people roughly and heavily drawing air in and out? As I waited for the gun, I wore my mask. I was the only one and that didn’t bother me. In fact, I was a little self conscious that I would be judged but I think everyone was just focused on the trail. When the race began, there was a natural small bottleneck. I left my mask on. About a mile in, I had to take it off. Luckily, the crowd had thinned. Since I am not an elite runner, I wasn’t doing the 7 minute miles of the head of the pack. On the flip, I also am not slow. I was able to find a sweet spot where I could see the front of the pack in the distance, but was far enough ahead of the average runners that I was not in a crowd. Overall, it was amazing to be racing again. I love competition. For over a year, I ran only on the treadmill. There was part of me that wondered if my ability have disappeared during the quarantine. I came in 4th place in my division and am beyond excited with that placement. I also was relieved knowing I was done with the crowds for the day. I spent two weeks secretly nervous I contracted COVID and am happy to report that the vaccine seems to have worked for me. I have another race scheduled for October and am already feeling nervous. Our hospitalization rate has shot to nearly 500 and the ICU is two away from 100. Will my next race being outdoors be enough to protect my family, especially my two unvaccinated kids at home? Will my vaccine even still be effective by October? My second shot will have been administered seven months prior at that point.

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This item was submitted on August 11, 2021 by Kathryn Jue using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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