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 the Managing Editor of iRunFar 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.