From the Editor’s Desk: Telling Stories While Our Sport Presses Pause

Whether you first started reading the site this year or you’ve been following along from the beginning in early 2016, you likely came to MassUltra because you care about your local ultrarunning community. You’re here because you want to know the latest news, because you draw inspiration from the people around you, or because you simply want to feel a little more connected. It’s probably some combination of all of those reasons; in fact, all of them played a role in my decision to launch this site four-plus years ago, and they are why it continues today.

That desire to connect and inspire is part of what made the past two weeks so frustrating. The front page of this site right now is depressing. Almost all of the lead images are that same terrifying, poor-quality red graphic labeled “Current Events” followed by the dreaded “COVID-19.”

The stories read like an ultrarunning horror film in six parts:

  • Trails in Motion Film Festival at Race-Mania Postponed Due to Coronavirus
  • To Hale and Back Canceled in Precautionary Response to COVID-19
  • Massachusetts Ultrarunning Groups Adjust as COVID-19 Situation Evolves
  • Cape Cod Trail Race Canceled Due to COVID-19
  • TARC Spring Classic is Latest Race Canceled Due to COVID-19
  • Ultra-Endurance Researchers Urge Halt to Events Through June 15

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there surely will be more of those stories under the same sad graphic in the weeks and months ahead. That said, it shouldn’t constitute all—or even most—of the reporting on this site.

There likely will be more race cancellations; that’s news that will be of interest to some of you so it merits being reported here. Still, MassUltra shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Races are canceled right now and group runs are strongly discouraged and publicly shamed as we all do our part to practice “social distancing” for the well-being of the most vulnerable among our population and the overburdened medical community providing care to those who need it, but the stoppage of races doesn’t mean the stoppage of stories being told.

If there is opportunity to be found in COVID-19 as a journalist, it’s that the time typically spent covering and recapping races can be used instead to tell new stories about what our community is doing during this time apart to stay connected to the trails—and to each other.

Just because we aren’t supposed to run together right now doesn’t mean we have to stop seeking adventure or sharing inspiration. Many of you are doing it already. A simple example that is catching on quickly is #seensolo, a hashtag started by Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) race director Josh Katzman to share interesting images captured on daily solo runs. Building on that, Samantha LeBlanc added the #seenlocal hashtag to celebrate staying close to home rather than venturing into the mountains.

I’d argue that these small, simple actions are as important as ever right now so we can weather the pandemic crisis together as a community, support each other through it, and come out stronger on the other side (or, as TARC veteran Laura Ricci so eloquently put it: “We’ll be back and more animal than ever”).

In that spirit, a goal for reporting here at MassUltra in the coming weeks and months will be to tell some of the stories of how you’re fueling your inner animal during this time, how you’re staying strong and fit while life is on lockdown, and what you’re doing to push your limits and inspire our community during this unprecedented time.

Our runs may be solo right now, but we’re not alone. Our community is strong; we’ll get through this together.

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