I ran the Leadville Marathon in 2016, thinking that it would be good training for climbing. I was happy to finish within the cutoff time. That experience was an inspiring “run across the sky” for me, as the organizers advertised. This year COVID-19 has shut down most travel for climbing and has shut down Leadville. I ran a remote Leadville Marathon anyway, on the day for which it was scheduled, 13 June 2020, in the woods and hills of a small park around a lake near my home in Atlanta, Georgia.
My focused training period was relatively short. It started after I returned from climbing Antisana in Ecuador in January. I had planned to spend much of the coming season rock climbing in the western United States, but I returned to a world that was starting to shut down. I thought again that Leadville would be good training for climbing, even though the time was short for me to build up to marathon distance. Leadville in June would be a worthwhile goal for me, even if I could be there only in my imagination. Knowing the actual race probably would be cancelled, I prepared to run that distance on that day anyway, with as much uphill running as I could achieve by running out from my home. Fortunately for me, Henderson Park is only a mile and a half away.
My path in the park is about two miles long. I complete the length of a marathon with thirteen laps. One of my daughters went out with me on a practice day to take photos.
The trail starts on a gentle downhill slope.
About halfway around my route the trail goes up one side of a waterfall, over tangles of exposed tree roots, and then down the other, through chest-high poison ivy.
Elsewhere on the route is a kudzu field on a bed of Georgia red clay. Kudzu grows up to a foot a day. With each lap around my route I push through its tendrils reaching farther across the path.
I keep track of my laps with pinecones, adding one for each lap. The act of finding and placing a pinecone also helps me focus my mind away from distracting thoughts and back onto the run, for safety, pacing, and enjoyment. For 26.2 miles I lined up 13 pinecones.
Part of the run crosses a small open space where couples and families lay out blankets for picnics, and then up the slope of the dike that holds the lake. This also is a popular spot for birdwatchers.
I wear an old bandana around my neck when I run. I pull it up, bandit style, when I encounter people on the trail, to show that I care about protecting them from any germs I might be blowing out. I often receive appreciative comments and see them covering up too, protecting me and showing me they care. In Atlanta’s heat and humidity, the bandana quickly becomes saturated with sweat, but if it is a little threadbare it allows enough air through to breathe comfortably, even if I am working hard, while trapping potentially infectious droplets. In this season of a surging pandemic, distancing and covering are essential and possible, even while running a marathon.
When I’m alone or no one other than my close family is near, I keep my face-covering around my neck, ready to pull up quickly. Only my wife and daughter greeted me this time at my marathon finish line, so I was glad to celebrate the end of my run with a big open smile.
COVID-19 has shut down non-essential travel. I have the luxury of being able mostly to stay home until I see sustained reassurance in COVID-19 epidemiology. I am using some of this time at home to contribute what I can to the COVID-19 response. When I run, part of my contribution is to cover my mouth and nose when I am around other people.
My “Leadville Marathon” this year also gives me an opportunity to encourage support for causes my daughters have chosen that address the current public health and political crises in the United States and the world.
Mark Postle and Uphill Athlete have generously agreed to join me in donating to organizations chosen by my daughters, Tamrin and Sara, as sponsorship opportunities for my run. I encourage others to donate too, if you are able, to one or both of the organizations listed below. If you send me an email receipt, I can track donations, but do not feel obligated to do so. Tracking, I can report back to the organizations and to Uphill Athlete, perhaps in an Athlete Story update, on the success of this effort. Mark helped coach my training to climb Antisana in Ecuador in January 2020, with my brother, Serge, and my friends, Brian and Ed. He has been a great support for me as a coach since Antisana too.
Please join me in contributing to the organizations my daughters chose as sponsorship for my Saturday, 13 June 2020 remote Leadville Marathon run:
My daughters, Tamrin and Sara, describe these organizations in paragraphs below, with websites and donation links.
TAMRIN: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. Additionally, their support stretches across the spheres of social justice, social service, healthcare, education, and disaster relief. Earlier this month, BC/EFA donated a total of $125K to the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, The Bail Project, Color of Change, and The NAACP Legal Defense Fund to support anti-racism efforts. An active campaign of theirs supports emergency grants for pandemic relief, which is currently matching each donation dollar for dollar to provide medication, meals, home care, and more for people whose needs are heightened by the Covid-19 crisis.
For more information: broadwaycares.org
Covid-specific donation link: https://donate.broadwaycares.org/campaign/emergency-grants-for-pandemic-relief/c284803
SARA: Justice Committee “building safer sustainable communities in NYC” is dedicated to building a movement against police violence and systemic racism in New York City. Their work centers around organizing families of people murdered by the NYPD as well as multi-generational leadership development. This heart-led work provides crucial support and community to those families fighting for justice for their loved ones. They also work toward building community safety without relying on the police and organizing CopWatch trainings (a de-escalation tactic and important community safety measure). The organization I work for, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice, has been organizing alongside Justice Committee since 1990, and I’m personally inspired by the family members who continue to fight for justice for their loved ones, and by extension all people targeted by racist policing, while imagining and building a better world.
Their website: https://www.justicecommittee.org/
Donate Link: https://justicecommittee.ourpowerbase.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=1
Stefan Goldberg, MD. 18 June 2020
Atlanta, GA, USA