By UD ambassador, Kyle Robidoux
The past few months have impacted everyone’s daily lives. Whether it is work, school, child care, or staying active, we all have had to adjust and adapt. Although issues like employment, housing, and one’s health is incredibly important, being active has tremendous impact on our physical and mental well-being. Arguable now more than ever.
Like everyone, I have had to adjust my running routine as COVID-19 ran havoc through Boston. As a runner who is legally blind, I do most of my outdoor running with the support of a sighted guide. Out of respect to my guides, family, and overall community, I stopped running with guides in late March. At the time I had no idea how long this would last for and how significant of an impact it would have on me.
I have a progressive eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa which will likely result in the loss of most of if not all of my vision. I have some “usable vision”– approximately a 3-4% field of vision (think looking through a paper towel roll) and corrected 20/40 vision. I can still run a few local paths solo but as my vision continues to decrease, it is safer for me and those I am running near if I run with a guide.
I started to run on my local track which a quarter mile from my house which I can safely run to. I’ve been running on this track for years and there are rarely more than one or two other runners or walkers on it. From day one, I noticed a significant increase in people on the track, likely a result of gym closures. Plus, numerous families were using the track (a wonderful thing) with kids frequently riding their bikes against the regular track direction. This threw me for a mental loop. A few times I ended up leaving before my workout was complete because I was concerned with running into someone, which did happen twice when I ran into small kids on scooters (thankfully their parents were very understanding). On these days I would run home and hop on the treadmill.
In early April, to commemorate the Umstead 100 and Boston Marathon on April 20th, I got to the track early and ran 26.2 and 40 miles, respectively. Even though I changed direction every couple of hours my hips and knees were absolutely destroyed.
And then, ultimate boredom and running fatigue set in. Running on the track became so monotonous that it zapped my speed. I did a few more virtual 50ks (including East vs West Coast which the East dominated!) but I was not engaged. My mental health started to play a factor as running circles on the track or long miles on the “dreadmill” were tougher and tougher to do.
I am not a fan of comparing my situation to others as a source of motivation. But I found myself thinking about those who for whatever reason could not run. I tried to focus on individual workouts. On long runs I focused on being present and not obsessively thinking about the last mile. This helped me “change the channel” when negative thoughts began to creep in.
I also had the opportunity to get in some hikes which although not running I was off the track and in the woods on dirt.
I often say that running with guides, especially during ultras, allows me to always have someone around to keep my spirits up. Conversely, I rarely have the opportunity to run by myself and just let my mind wander. Therefore, running on the track was an opportunity to test my mental toughness and embrace the solitude of running. Even while running circles on a city track. I focused a lot on visualizing previous races and the course or rolling into an aid station with cheering volunteers. I also played games where running in lane 1 was sweet, buffed out single track and lane 2 was East Coast roots and rocks. Anything to keep me engaged. I also tried to be as present as possible and get into a flow where I was focused yet relaxed and not thinking about “how many miles to go.”
Am I looking forward to getting back to running with sighted guides and running my usual routes and exploring new ones? Most definitely. But I am thankful for the opportunity to be healthy and continue to be active.
Hope to see you on the roads or in the woods soon.
Want to join Ultimate Direction athletes Krissy Moehll and Scott Jurek as sighted guides? Please check out www.unitedinstride.com if you want to be a guide.