It’s a little after 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31, just a few hours until we officially kick 2020 to the curb and welcome in 2021 with hope and optimism for better days ahead.
Looking back, 2020 was a long, strange trip for all of us thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re not through it yet, but a few of our fellow citizens have received their first doses of the vaccine, so I enter 2021 hopeful of many things starting with the vaccine protecting the lives of my family, friends and loved ones – as well as you, your families, and those you care most about.
I’m also hopeful that at some point in the new year – possibly soon, though I anticipate more like summer or early fall – our trail- and ultrarunning community will be able to reunite in some semblance of a normal way. Sure, there were a few glimmers of that in 2020, but they were few and far between.
It’s hard to believe that on Feb. 1-2 I was roaming the woods at Hale Reservation with my camera and notepad, covering the second annual TARCtic Frozen Yeti 30-Hour. Some of you had big goals that day; others were using it as training for a race later in the year; all were eager for the season to unfold and optimistic about the opportunities ahead.
Those opportunities mostly didn’t happen. We went more than seven months without in-person racing in Massachusetts as the pandemic took hold on the state, country, and world. In total, 23 ultras were canceled in the Bay State in 2020, a few went virtual, and only six happened with in-person racing. That said, many in our community found ways to rally together from a distance and keep everyone inspired. The pursuit of Fastest Known Times was unreal – records fell constantly as many of you pushed the limits and had your community cheering for you from a distance. There were simpler – and equally powerful – ways of motivating, too. The #seensolo hashtag rolled out on the Trail Animals Running Club’s Facebook page early in the pandemic. Several folks, including Josh Katzman, Samantha LeBlanc, David Metsky, and Alex Cabrera, continue to post images from their urban, trail and mountain adventures almost daily. It’s a wonderful thing.
Many people also went above and beyond to find ways to make a positive impact during the pandemic, either through their running or another talent. I was fortunate to share some of those stories this year, starting with Marie Gryszowka making masks and concluding with Race Director Amy Rusiecki’s multiple efforts to raise funds for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport following the cancellation of the Vermont 100. I believe these stories are the best I’ve written in my five years publishing MassUltra – they’re certainly the most important.
When I roamed the woods in mid-October while covering the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail, I spent much of the day smiling behind my mask. I kept extra distance from the runners and stood further in the woods to give plenty of space for safe passage. Runners started the race one by one, a minute apart. All of it felt weird, but also familiar. Sure, we looked different with our masks on and couldn’t congregate closely as we normally would. I couldn’t greet friends with hugs, and volunteers had to be extra cautious while assisting runners as the day turned to night and the running grew difficult.
Yes, 2020 reminded me vividly of how much I love this community of ours, trail- and ultrarunners. It’s the people who make it special. We need each other. We make each other better. We desperately need to roam the trails together again soon.
As we close out 2020, I am thankful for the harsh reminder the year gave of just how much I appreciate all of you. As we enter 2021, I am hopeful that there are better days and communal miles ahead for all of us.
I’ll see you on the trails again soon!
Top 10 Most-Viewed Stories of 2020 (104 total pieces of new content in 2020)
1 Massive Performance: Cutler Smashes Midstate FKT in Unsupported Style – 940 views
2 Masks, Miles, and Major Performances at the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail – 363 views
3 Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50K will Take Place in 2021 – With a Twist – 342 views
4 Mitchener Uses Running Superpower to Bring Laughter to Neighbors During Pandemic – 317 views
5 Village Ultra Receives Approval for In-Person Running – 316 views
6 For Woburn with Love: LeBlanc to Take on Towanda to Benefit Community – 276 views
7 Massasoit 50K, Formerly Known as Big Bear, Set for October Return – 248 views
8 In-Person Racing Returns to Massachusetts with Village Ultra – 224 views
9 MassUltra Roundup: Dreadmill Endurance Challenge – 221 views
10 Pandemic Doesn’t Deny Furtado His 100K Dream – 219 views