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The Comeback--Covid Style

August 02, 2020

The Comeback--Covid Style

Michelle Staudt
Hometown: Columbus, OH (18 years in Chicago)

Janel Broderick:
Michelle, your story’s incredible and I want to make sure I get it right. The 2020 Boston Marathon was to be your redemption run. Because three days prior to the 2019 race, your dad was reported missing in Ohio. The next day, now only two days out from the Boston start line, your dad was located in Kentucky where he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. But, given that there wasn’t much you could do at that immediate point in time, the doctors encouraged you to go ahead with your plans to run Boston. Is that right?

Michelle Staudt:
That’s right! After a LOT of conversations with the doctors at the hospital he was admitted to, a wonderful social worker reassured me that he was in good hands and that he would be taken care of until I could get to Louisville after the marathon. The finish was very bittersweet - there was no time to celebrate, as I had just enough time to shower and hit the airport to head to Louisville. I had a glass of champagne in La Guardia on one of my layovers.

Janel:
I can’t imagine what it was like to try to focus on running your best race in the midst of all of that uncertainty and tumult. And what a way to end a marathon training cycle. So, fast forward to 2020—this was going to be your comeback year. What happened?

Michelle:
Training had been going well for Boston 2020! I’d come off a great fall season of marathon-racing and was ready to go all-in for 2020. Even if Boston 2020 wouldn't be my fastest marathon, I was determined to be well-trained and enjoy the race in a way that was more meaningful than any other time I’d run Boston. I was so excited to get back to Hopkinton and soak up all the energy I had been too distracted to experience the year before. Then... global pandemic. Worldwide shutdowns and the cancellation of just about every race, for the safety of all. The rescheduling (now virtual only) announcement of the Boston marathon came the day after my first 20-miler of the spring training season. Womp womp.

Janel:
And to add insult to injury, after it was announced that the 2020 Boston marathon had been cancelled, your dad…..

Michelle:
Got Covid. It was super scary. He is in a long-term care facility for individuals with Alzheimer’s, and many residents ended up testing positive. Some passed away. I’m very fortunate that my dad pulled through, thanks to the amazing care he receives. He’s still working on regaining his strength and appetite. We don’t yet know what the long-term effects of COVID will be on him, but the man is a tank. A true model of grit and resilience. 

Janel:
Incredible. But you decided to run a solo “Boston” marathon on Patriot’s Day? How’d you dream that up and what happened next?

Michelle:
As most great plans begin, this one took shape over a glass of wine one night :) I was missing my running friends fiercely. Spring often feels like "back-to-school" season to me, as races begin to take over our calendars and we reunite with other runners we haven’t seen during the winter. Chicago had been on a strict shut-down for weeks, and all the usual races had been cancelled.  I knew I wanted to run 26.2 miles on Patriot’s Day, and I thought what better way to create the course than to run by my friends’ homes to say “hi!” I posted my idea on my social pages and asked if anyone would be interested in seeing me on my run and maybe setting out a cup of Gatorade. I figured I’d hear back from 3-4 people and I’d end up running laps around my neighborhood. I ended up with a course that spanned the north side of the city with 17 stops at friends’ homes. The support from my friends was unbelievable! I will always remember the love from that day. There were entire city blocks out with noisemakers and decorations and Gatorade. A friend in a Leprechaun costume. A legit “aid-station," complete with an “elite" water bottle and traffic cones. My face hurt for days afterward from smiling the entire run!

Janel:
I teared up just imagining you running through the city cheered on by friends. I heard you got a little help from your local run shop, Fleet Feet Chicago?

Michelle:
I sure did! My local Fleet Feet Chicago store painted a perfect finish line for me and captured the emotional finish with a photographer. No “Boston” event would be complete without Dunkin Donuts, and they had a dozen waiting for me (including my favorite, double-chocolate!), as well as a Sam Adams beer. Fleet Feet Chicago even surprised me with an official Finishers’ Jacket.

Janel:
Oh man, what did it feel like to cross that finish line? Did you get your “redemption?”

Michelle:
I didn’t begin this adventure looking for redemption. Honestly, I was just looking for a way to see my running friends, and as a friend pointed out, what else was I going to do on Patriot‘s Day, which I’d taken off from work many months prior? But something changed during that run. I found peace with whatever the future holds for racing during these scary times. I no longer looked back at Boston 2019 and relived the anxiety I experienced. I was once again in control of my own happiness and love for the sport. Redemption = check!

Janel:
How’s your dad doing now?

Michelle:
Much better! He is walking on his own and putting on some much-needed weight. We’ve lost a lot of time together over these past few months, as his home was on lock down, but visits are resuming in a safe, controlled way. I’m very grateful to be able to see him again and laugh in-person at his terrible dad jokes!

Janel:
Dad jokes are the best.
A lot of people are struggling with the mental aspect of having their own race cancelled. In many cases, they’d been diligent in their training, and working toward that date on the calendar. Any advice to share?

Michelle:
Allow yourself some grace. As runners, many of us are driven by planning and pace and competition with ourselves and others. We likely won't return to in-person racing as we’ve known it for some time. Try to find a balance between the sport and other hobbies, or time with your close loved ones that often get neglected with putting in the long miles. Have that piece of cake you deny yourself when training. Take your dog for longer walks. Stay active and pushing, but be open to your training calendar being imperfect.

Janel:
Amen to cake, long walks, and new hobbies.


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