Seventeen years ago, I ran the New York City Marathon. I was never much of a runner. A big outing for me was two times around Central Park’s reservoir running track – a little more than three miles. But every November, I would stand on Fifth Avenue to watch runners on their way to finishing 26.2 miles and think how wonderful it would be to complete that race. Not being an elite runner, I knew I had to find another way to qualify. I joined the New York Road Runners and competed the required races, along the way acquiring at least a dozen T-shirts and some confidence that I could actually do it.
But I took nothing for granted. I also joined a runners group of women who ran races every weekend. I did one in the pouring rain that began in upper Manhattan and ended with a jaunt over the Brooklyn Bridge.
The marathon was tough, with many surprises. The race begins on Staten Island – first up, the Verrazano Bridge into Queens. Brooklyn went through a diversity of neighborhoods and seemed to go on forever. Then a short time in the Bronx and finally into Manhattan. While there were some long, flat stretches, there were also some inclines and several hills. When I got to the 59th Street Bridge, I encountered the steepest hill. By the time I made it to First Avenue, I knew I was in trouble. My right knee hurt and I was afraid I had torn something. But there was no way I was going to drop out, not with the end so near. I kept going and while my time was nothing to brag about, I did finish and claim my medal.
We are now in the midst of a different kind of marathon, one to outrun a dangerous virus. We began this race energized, feeling that the small things we were doing – wearing masks, washing hands, using sanitizer, keeping our distance – would keep us going. But like running a race without increasing our endurance, we faced this pandemic without proper preparation and are running out of steam. The number of infections and deaths continue to rise, our hospitals are overwhelmed, and our health care workers exhausted.
We are all missing our families. Many took risks at Thanksgiving and we are now seeing the effects of those gatherings with a huge surge in cases. Situations will be even worse if we don’t heed cautions about not traveling for Christmas.
The finish line is ahead, vaccines that have been tested and proved to be effective against the virus could be made available to some populations as early as this month. In the meantime, we have to fight against Covid fatigue, letting down our guard, gathering in groups, discounting the advice of public health experts. We are so close to defeating this pandemic, now is not the time to quit.
We may not receive medals at the end of this marathon, but we will have something even more valuable – knowing that we will be able to spend any and all holidays ahead with those we love.
Top Photo of the New York City Marathon, Bigstock