Recommitting to a Solo Summer

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve heard people jokingly say that they’ve been training their whole lives for the quarantining and social distancing asked of us by our public health leaders. I feel the same way–mostly!

I’ve always been something of a lone wolf when it comes to outdoor adventures. Nature is a really powerful energy maker for me, and as an introvert who creates her life energy through time alone, being outside solo helps me to reenergize. And, being out in the great, wide open is one of my main coping mechanisms. Out there, I can clearly think about and process life’s challenges. And finally, I can be a bit particular about pace and distance, and this inflexibility makes me a poor candidate for group endeavors.

Here in the United States where COVID-19 continues to surge in many parts of the country, it is becoming clear that we’re not yet ready to retire the pandemic lifestyle changes of the last four months. Our public health leaders continue to ask us to modify our lifestyles to help protect us individually and as a community. Despite my tendencies toward the solo, this has still been a hard pill for me to swallow. So, during last Sunday’s run, I decided to put some thought into why I feel upset about being asked to continue limiting my physical community interactions.

I have spent my adult life traveling when I like, spending my evenings in a restaurant or bar when I want, planning group runs and meals with my friends anytime we want to, and popping out to the store when I’m out of something. I know, what an incredible privilege it is to feel this free for the vast majority of my life! I think it is this loss of freedom–however real or perceived–that makes this time difficult.

Yeah, I want to feel free enough to hug a friend, to wander the produce aisle at the store to see what looks good instead of ordering online for outside pick-up, to spend an evening hanging out in one of my favorite bars, and to get a big group of friends together for a run or race or community gathering of some sort. I am realizing that part of my want is embedded in an actual desire to do these activities and part is just to feel that sense of freedom to which I’m so accustomed.

In March, April, and May, the state of Colorado, where we live for part of the year, had a stay-at-home order. We were asked to not travel more than a few miles from home and only for essential activities. Now, for the last two-ish months, our public health leaders have asked us to either stay at home or in our regional great outdoors. What a cool concept this second order is, acknowledging that time spent in our state’s vast open spaces can help mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19–not to mention the mental and physical health benefits of being outside. Was this public health order written for trail runners and ultrarunners?! It feels like it. The order comes with caveats, however, asking us to stay in our region when we do leave home, to bring all the supplies we need so we limit our contact with others in new places, and to maintain social distance when we interact with people outside our household.

In March, April, and May, during our state’s stay-at-home order, I did. In June and July, since our state began allowing us time in our regional great outdoors, I’ve left home on two self-contained camping trips where I brought all the the food, water, and other supplies I needed for my time away. While I’ve tried really hard the vast majority of these four-plus months, I’ve still bobbled a little bit and been imperfect a couple of times. I’d thus probably grade myself with an A- in execution.

After giving all this some deeper thought last week, I can intellectually understand that the public health orders of my state give me incredible freedom to live out a relatively normal lifestyle, with a few modifications along the way. I am realizing that the loss of freedom that I think I feel is more perceived than actual.

So, I am personally recommitting to our public health orders to the greatest extent possible. I can do this! Not only can I make these modifications, but I can also shift my internal narrative to something founded more in the intellectual than the emotional.

This pandemic is a unique ultramarathon in that we don’t know where and when the finish line is, but it’s clear that many miles still remain. So, here’s me, using the accountability of this public space to recommit to a safe and largely solo summer… and fall… and winter, if need be. Perhaps you’re already doing this better than me, or perhaps you’ve struggled a little, too. Either way, the collective we have already come so far in protecting ourselves and our communities that I hope you’ll also consider being a part of the rest of this ultramarathon.

Call for Comments

  • Where is your personal decision-making at this summer when it comes to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • In what ways are you modifying your lifestyle to follow public health orders?
  • Have you been able to find a balance between enjoying some typical summer activities but doing so in a modified way?

All photos: iRunFar

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 8 comments

  1. John

    Hi Meghan,

    Great article. Definitely a different world out there, and probably even more so where you live.
    Seeing that a few races have popped up, I.e. a few in CO, and I believe in UT. I think Speedgoat is this weekend or maybe I could be wrong about that. Also, some people are still going after FKT’s or even virtual challenges (Walmsley’s effort on a virtual Hardrock). When do you expect to start reporting on these events on a regular Monday basis? Thanks

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the comment. We’re trying to stay fluid and flexible in the changing circumstances of the pandemic, and have not yet made a decision on when we’ll restart our Monday This Week in Running column.

  2. Joris

    Hi Meghan, thanks for your lovely article. Here in Australia we had a few months with limited travel and no group gatherings. Many of our running community learned to go solo more often or with a single friend – which was allowed –
    This way you learn to balance the benefits of solo runs with being more mindful of who you run with.

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Hi Joris,

      Thanks for the comment. Maybe one of the gifts for runners in the pandemic has been to discover or rediscover solo running? I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I can imagine it’s certainly some people’s once they give it time and a chance.

  3. Kristy Falcon

    Meghan, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in your interactions with those around you and agree this is something we should all consider in our actions, irregardless of a pandemic.  I’m also doing my best to respect local and state public health orders, and at the same time, realize that although we both live in smaller mountain towns in CO, my past few months seem to have been pretty different than yours.  

    I’ve been working in the public as a server and manager in one of our town’s busiest restaurants during this entire pandemic.  We’ve been really busy ever since Colorado’s stay at home order ended and we were allowed to open for sit in dining, which has been going on for about 2 months now.  Out of town visitors, no matter where they live, and what businesses they choose to frequent, are currently allowed under Colorado’s current Safer at Home orders and our local public health mandates.  Yes, there is definitely concern in this community about how the large increase in visitors these past few months could cause a spike in COVID cases.  But also, the reality is that many businesses in these mountain towns won’t survive if out of town visitors entirely opt out of the local economy this summer. This is the point of businesses reopening with very clear guidelines about social distancing, mask usage, extensive cleaning procedures, increased outdoor seating, temperature checks, etc, etc.  We’ve had to totally revamp how we operate our business, just like so many others, so that we can safely operate around the public, no matter where they happen to live.  

    I also think that local and state officials realize that beyond telling everyone to go back to stay at home orders, it’s really hard to regulate and make decisions about who should and who shouldn’t enter towns, counties, businesses, etc.  This concept of who and who doesn’t belong in our various communities and in our public spaces has been a tricky one that’s turned very divisive and into a very negative us vs them situation at times.  This divisiveness is especially worrying when you consider the fact that CO’s tourist and mountain towns are overwhelmingly white, and increasingly affluent, as the cost of living in these areas has skyrocketed in the past decade.  Considering all of this, I agree with the decision that even during a pandemic, if you’ve made the decision to open, you’re open to everyone.  

    Like you, Meghan, I’ve also mostly been staying in our county and near our home.  I agree, I really enjoy solitary outings in the mountains, and would be doing this no matter the conditions of this summer.  I’ve also travelled outside of our community on occasion – this last time to compete in an in person running race.  We camped on public lands, and on our way home, we stopped at a restaurant for brunch.  It was a great experience, and I really did feel I was being responsible when I planned out this weekend.  I made these decisions not because I felt deprived of the right to race, or because I have a competitive goal in mind right now, or because I feel the need to eat at someone else’s restaurant when I have time off from the restaurant I spend so much time at.  It’s because I have a lot of respect for business owners who are working hard during this time to make things work for their organizations, employees, and customers.  It truly hasn’t been easy, and as a runner, race director, and 20 year veteran of the restaurant industry, I really want to support these organizations and see them succeed.  And I have confidence in our local and state public health officials when they give the green light to these activities, because I’ve seen first hand that these extensive plans and regulations are actually working.

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Hi Kristy,

      Thanks for the comment. Thank you even more for working in food service and management through the pandemic, as well as your commitment to creating a safer experience in your restaurant.

      This article is not advocating for closing the economy or not patronizing businesses during this time. Of course, of course, of course, of course, within our personal economic means and the mandates and recommendations of our public health orders, I feel it’s imperative to support the businesses we love to make sure they make it through these times. There are so many ways in which we can have a decently functioning economy while still protecting personal and public health!

      The reality for me, however, in the last 2 months has been that not all business patronization has been a safer experience due to either action/inaction on the part of the business and/or its clients. (Of course, I have also encountered many businesses and patrons following very closely the public health order.) As a result of these bobbled experiments, I have recommitted to being a lot more careful with where and how I do my business.

      To be clear for all readers, most of what I am choosing to do as outlined in this article is either strongly recommended or recommended by the state’s public health order, and a few of the actions I am taking are mandated. For anyone interested in Colorado’s current public health order, visit here, https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home.

      Ultimately, Kristy, it seems we’re on the same page of wanting to support our fave businesses as best and as safely as we can! Good luck to you and your business.

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