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How Virtually Running Across America (Alongside 20 Women from Around the World) Broke My Virtual Race Slump - Part II

When the world shifted to all things virtual this past Spring, Balega Impi team ambassador Kelly McLay formed a team and ran across the U.S.- virtually. In Part 2 of her blog series, Kelly shared what the virtual run taught her and how she is preparing for the future.



What Running Across America Virtually Taught Me

  1. Trust your Gut. Don’t be afraid to throw an idea you like out there, you never know who needs it too. I really should have had three teams. I am not saying this pompously, it was just that friends of friends wanted to be a part of it - who needed this goal - needed a team of women supporting women. So get the word out; build your team.
  2. Accountability is Key. Somedays I would not want to run - without a greater purpose it would be an easy excuse not to. But, in the back of your mind, you knew your teammate was out there running the miles and you didn’t want them to do it alone, you wanted to help, to edge us a little further along.
  3. Competition Reignites. This rat race of realities was fun. Because it went for a longer time it created sustained motivation. A reason to continuously run, train, make our way to the goal!
  4. It is Important to Have a Finish Line: Set a distance and set a goal - and reach it. It creates purpose, direction, it unifies and accomplishes. It was so important that we could physically be a part of the progress, mentally see our effort was towards a collective goal, and find success in doing that. The return on investment was intangible, the endorphin rush we needed. Along with the celebration - which was just as important.
  5. Technology Can Connect.  We had representation from 4 continents (next time we will get all 7 continents) and we were able to connect together via our team Facebook page. And there was a reason to post, we were in a competition but we were not competing on social media. We were collaborating and we were doing this across the world - which makes me remember the good parts about Facebook.
  6. Connection is Important. The value of teammates (I miss them); the value of checking-in and sharing in this time of distancing and simply asking - are you okay? In setting times to train together, even if distant and virtual - you know your friend is out there so you have to be too. Community has power - and it’s important to communicate, smile, laugh, cry and have human connection as best and safe as possible.



Moving Forward….

With races and events being canceled or postponed, gyms closed, and all exercise moving to virtual or solo practices, it’s incredibly hard to set goals. These losses pale in comparison to the greater losses our communities are experiencing and navigating. Setting goals is as important as running, exercise, and having human connection, which are the tools that help us make it through difficult times.

I recently watched Boston Marathon runners finish their individual 124th virtual Boston Marathon. In my state of virtual fatigue I thought, “no way”, but one by one I saw balloon arches, distanced spectators, aid station volunteers in family members and support bikers. I grabbed my own blue and yellow cowbells to cheer on a friend who did his first marathon, I saw chalk drawn finish lines, I saw posters, and charity runners and new memories being made and goals being met. And I felt it -  the spirit of the marathon - and it was beautiful - each moment built upon the other - and I was jealous I wasn’t charting my own isolated marathon memories.

A week later, I saw a Boston Marathon training buddy finish her first IronMan alone, I then watched clients take on the Berlin Marathon 2:01.39 challenge, a friend run the Virtual London Marathon in a pod of the London Eye to raise awareness for Mental health, and I got choked up as Sara Hall sprinted fearlessly with all her heart down the Mall of Buckingham Palace to take second place in the London Marathon. I am inspired. How special to look back and say - despite all the obstacles, despite all the isolation, I/we/they went out there and did it - alone - virtual - different than it was meant to be but still absolutely so perfect and so unforgettable. 

So in hindsight, 2020 may just be the year of vision - I am not sure about you but my eyes have for sure been opened. While it looks, feels and smells different, maybe this is the year to retrain our brains. It may be the challenge that we all “ran” to the occasion for. To meet the demands of a finish line that constantly moves and to build mental fortitude. To smell the flowers of creating new experiences and a reminder that at the end of the day we can still run, we can enjoy nature, we can set and accomplish goals. For one thing, I know heading into 2021 or any future race, my mental game is more resilient and my ability to adapt to spontaneity stronger. So I accept this virtual pop-up of apps, watches and time submissions that defines our current sport as it has trained my strength. I recommend as we head to the end of 2020 that you find an event, find some friends, and set your finish line.

And, when the time is right, I can’t wait for that next start line in person - it’ll be 26.beautiful.



Photo credit: Kelly McLay (@kmclay13), Danielle Moroukian (@Dmorouk), London Pod (Mark Cocksedge Photographer)