To all our people out in Queens: welcome back to the QDR blog! It’s been a while, and we thank you for your patience; there was a good amount of work involved in changing from the old website to the new website. With that, let’s get up to speed!
We closed 2021 with a flurry of activities (and even some flurries in December). The return of large, premier races saw our teammates tackle a globe-trotting list of marathons and half marathons. QDR was there in Chicago, Boston, Berlin, Philadelphia, Newport, and, of course, New York City. Once again, the myth of “Queens is quiet” was proven wrong as soon as runners entered our borough off the Pulaski. The gauntlet of cheering stations set up by QDR and our fellow Queens Running Collective teams brought unprecedented energy, especially considering all we have endured in the last two years. QDR fielded 107 finishers, ranging from first-timers to experienced veterans. Afterward, we celebrated these achievements and “brought it back to Queens” with the first-ever “Marathon Medal Monday” party at Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven. Thank you to Loy, the staff at Neir’s, and the members of the Neir’s 200 community for hosting us and being a part of the QDR family.
And speaking of marathons, but closer to home – we once again organized our flagship race, the Queens Marathon & QDR Half, not once but twice! November and December saw us cheer on teammates and friends in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Fittingly, at our December race, over 40 volunteers (as well as plenty of spectators) watched outgoing Captain Kevin Montalvo not just race the Queens Marathon, but truly go the distance for Queens with an outstanding finish time of 2:58. On the other side of the race – incoming Captain Nancy Silva served as race director and once again coordinated a seamless, organized, and efficient brigade of volunteers.
We returned to Flushing Meadows Corona Park on New Year’s Eve for a “changing of the guard” run: one final mile out with Kevin, and one first mile with Nancy. Teammates gathered to thank Kevin, Maria, and Edwin for all they have done with QDR and their work to transition/support the new leadership team of Nancy, James Poch, and Mike Bocchinfuso.
Whew! That’s a lot to unpack. Onward and upward into 2022!
The weather outside was occasionally frightful, but the miles were so delightful. Nancy’s initiative to celebrate life with a monthly birthday party group run series has been a hit. At our birthday runs, teammates gather to run for an hour, with different pace groups ensuring that all paces and abilities are accommodated. We start together, we end together, and we support each other as we see each other along the route. These have been a great way to strengthen teammate bonds in a relaxed and social setting, and even enjoy some treats afterward.
Similarly, we honored the diversity of Queens with special event group runs. We held a Lunar New Year themed run (postponed a week due to inclement weather) with a Strava art “Year of the Tiger” run, and a Black History Month run (with two start points in Jackson Heights and at the Unisphere) converging at the Lewis Latimer House Museum. And although we had to postpone our Spring Forward race in March, a large group of teammates joined in the Ukrainian Running Club’s “Stand with Ukraine” run in early March as a show of support.
On the racing front – teammates hit the ground running with a fast and furious race lineup that began right out the gate in January. We saw PRs and strong efforts alike in a full range of distances: Joe Kleinerman 10K, Fred Lebow Half, Manhattan 10K, Gridiron 4M, and Al Gordon 4M. Further away from home, teammates took on races in Houston, Little Rock, Newport News, and more. Major thank you to our “Midwest Captain” Nick who has been maintaining the QDR Race Roster spreadsheet – take a look, learn about races near and far, and maybe even find out that your teammates will be running with you!
The first NYRR points race of the year, the Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, brought a level of friendly competition and high energy to kick off the points race series. While Nancy and others held down the scream station for a power boost, 41 teammates were out tearing up the streets of Washington Heights. We saw the hard work of those who attend our Wednesday morning and evening track sessions paying off. Working together makes the hard workouts easier — you have others cheering you on! Leading by example, Co-Captain James Poch noted a new 5K PR. James has been writing about his “Road to the United Half” on his own social media accounts, and we welcome anyone else who want to share their story on our blog!
Our team is only as strong as what our members put into it. On that note, we want to hear more about our members’ training, progress, and achievements. Are you training for a goal race or time trial? Would you like to let the team know about how it’s coming along and lessons learned? Are you fundraising for a race? We want to ensure you meet not only your training goals, but your fundraising goals. Please reach out to us and we would love to amplify your story!
Follow us on social media, and most importantly on Strava, where the details of all our community group runs and track sessions are listed. Regarding our roster of neighborhood community runs: Astoria has re-joined the QDR lineup, which already includes Jackson Heights, Woodhaven, Flushing, Glen Oaks, and Forest Hills. We see potential for further expansion; if you feel there is a strong enough demand for a group run in your area, let us know!
Last weekend, on Saturday, August 28th, runners lined up on 94th Street next to Northern Playground for the Jackson Heights Mile sponsored by Awake NY. We all had such an amazing time organizing, volunteering, and running through the very heart of Jackson Heights. With the help of the NYPD and local Community Boards, we closed down traffic to 34th Avenue, the longest Open Streets path in NYC, for this one-mile race.
We worked with the 89th Street Tenants Unidos association to fundraise for the families displaced due to the 89th Street fire in their building, on top of dealing with the difficulty of the COVID-19 pandemic. All proceeds of the Jackson Heights Mile went to the fund and we successfully raised awareness of this issue to everyone who came from other neighborhoods to race the event. Thank you all for your contributions and please continue to support.
This event could not have happened without the effort and care of all the volunteers – thank you!
Volunteers went above and beyond to help petition in Jackson Heights every week leading into the race. They helped raise awareness of the race and its purpose. This led to more and more members of the community coming to us at our QDR tent on 34th Avenue asking for more information on how to sign up for the race and, more importantly, what they could do to further help the families of the 89th Street fire.
The day before the race and on race day, volunteers helped distribute bibs and the “Queens is the Future” t-shirts (which are available to purchase!) to all the runners. As you know, 34th Avenue gets a lot of traffic with MTA buses cutting through certain streets. While the NYPD did open those streets for the busses, during each wave those streets were closed. Thanks to the volunteers working with the NYPD, all runners sped through 34th Avenue smoothly.
This fast mile through Jackson Heights couldn’t have been possible with all the runners and clubs that came out: 718RUN, Brooklyn Track Club, Dashing Whippets, Forest Park Runners, LIC Runners, Lone Wolf Track Club, New York Harriers, North Brooklyn Runners, Running for Ayotzinapa 43, Streets 101, Team Wepa NYC, We Run Hollis, Woodside Sunnyside Runners, World’s Fair Run Crew.
We ended the mile races with the Community Champions Heat. Thanks to all the community leaders who came out and race this wave to celebrate what it means to be a part of this wonderful community that looks out for one another. After this wave, we heard speeches from State Senator Jessica Ramos, Shekar Krishan, Bryan Lozano of Homecoming, New Immigrants Community Empowerment (NICE) organizer Karla Hernandez, 34th Avenue Coalition Leaders Nuala O’Doherty and Jim Burke, Andrew Sokolov of the 89th Street Tenants Unidos association, and Josh Frankel the designer of the original mural and t-shirts.
Thank you all once again and we hope to make this an annual event with your help! And remember, Queens is the future!
The following is a race recap from our very own, Vikram Singh, at the Sri Chinmoy 12 & 24 Hour Race. That’s right, 12 and 24 hours! The race was held on June 12th and June 13th at Rockland State Park and it’s a great recap of having a strong mentality and not giving up when the going gets tough through any race.
The 24-hour timed race events are called “life in a day.” Just like the rollercoaster of life, people go through highs and lows throughout the event. While reading And then the Vulture eats you by John L. Parker Jr., the first story was about a 6-day timed event on a track that caught my interest. The book features stories about ultra-running in the 80s, which piqued my interest in timed events. Still, I don’t think I would have pulled the trigger to sign up for a race ‘till a QDR teammate, Dave Law, asked if I was interested in the 12 hours event at Rockland Lake. He had recently crushed his marathon time at the same loop, and I figured if he wasn’t tired of it after almost nine loops, maybe I won’t either. I also thought it would be mentally easier to run a 3-mile loop instead of a quarter-mile loop (most of these long-hour events are held on a running track).
My season so far consisted of the Hyner 50k in the wilds region of Pennsylvania and Rim to Rim to Rim (46 miles) in the Grand Canyon. With a long 10-hour hike in the Great Range of the ADK, I was pretty confident in my ability to spend time on my feet and keep moving. Unfortunately, I got rear-ended, and my car totaled two weeks before the race. It didn’t seem to affect me initially. Still, the following week was a stressful one dealing with the insurance and, combined with some long hours at the office, affected the quality of my recovery from workouts. My double-long run the weekend before didn’t go off too well, and I had some hamstring soreness on my left leg the days leading to the race. So I focused more on foam rolling the days before the race. I also started reading Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor, and it reminded me how important your mindset was. I took some of the lessons from the book to me on race day.
My strategy was pretty simple; I would jog for six minutes and walk for one minute. I debated this ratio a lot, but my goal was to keep moving, and I thought the one-minute breaks would help preserve my legs. Also, I thought it would be mentally easier when things got more challenging; I would simply tell myself to get through a 6-minute jog before getting a break. During the walk, I would try to mentally recharge and then make it through the next 6-minute jog. My A goal for the race was 60 miles, my B goal was 50 miles, and my C goal was to get over 40 miles.
Since I wasn’t in the mountains and had access to a small area along the course for my stuff, I decided to fuel up on real food during the race. On trail races where I have to carry my food, the weight to calories ratio is more of a factor, and I depend primarily on gels. Here I could always be 3 miles from my food and could motivate myself with having real food to look forward to eating. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan this out too well. I only had time to get a chipotle bowl, prepare a bagel with a veggie patty and a peanut butter sandwich. I also packed some Larabars, five ladoos, and some Enjoy-Life cookies.
I planned to get to the start around 7:15 am, set up, and then do some quick stretches and lie around, not spending time on my feet before starting at 8 am. Unfortunately, I got delayed and ended up getting to the race at 7:40 am. An overcast day in the low 70s made for ideal weather, especially compared to the weekend before. Still, on the drive over, the overcast looked more like a storm. While talking to a volunteer setting up, she mentioned spots with shade, but I failed to realize there were spots on both sides of the course. In my hurry, I simply placed my belongings in an area along the racecourse. I just didn’t want anything that would have required extra steps to get to. Besides my food, I brought three pairs of shoes and two chairs. One chair seated two people, and I used it as a table. Knowing that some rain was coming, I covered my food with a bag and kept my other shoes in a bag under a chair. It worked pretty well.
I walked over the start, not doing any stretches or a last-minute bathroom break due to lack of time. The race packet came with a bib belt where my bib was currently on. I checked in with the race director, who informed me about the counters -people who manually count a runner’s lap. He gave me an extra bib if I wanted to pin it to another shirt. I haven’t used a bib belt before, the only time I have considered using them was for triathlons, but I constantly just change to my singlet with my bib already pinned to it.
The start line was socially distanced, with tape markers separating people. Masks were required at the start as well. About 40 runners were doing the race split 50/50 between the 12 hours and 24 hours races. Another set of 12 runners or so were doing the 12 hours overnight race. I didn’t make it to a taped spot in time when the race started, so I just ran in, starting my watch as I crossed the start line. Since the bibs weren’t chip time but gun time, my watch was about 20 seconds behind. The start felt like any other race. As I started running, I immediately felt my left hamstring wiggle but felt good otherwise. It felt like the hamstring was in pre-cramp mode, as if it cramped up it would hurt, but then I would feel relief. A half-mile in, I was running behind three men who were talking. I overheard that this area we were passing was a good place to park your car. This parking lot was right next to the course, and there was a bathroom right there as well. I decided to make this the bathroom I would use if I had to go. Every step saved counts! For the first half of the loop, my jog for 6 minutes and walk for 1 minute worked reasonably well. I kept pace with many people who were also utilizing similar walk-run strategies. I didn’t make any effort to keep pace with anyone or follow or stay ahead; this was going to be my race.
The first loop went fast; running with the feel of the race environment with people made it easy. I made it through at a good pace and on track for the 60-mile goal. There were three-lap counters and one was assigned to each runner. This personal counter was supposed to make the race more personal to you. I didn’t feel it at first, but as the laps went down, it was lovely to have some people say your name and applaud you. My goal was to maintain a 12 minute per mile pace, and I effortlessly achieved that in my first loop. Based on my 50 mile PR at the 2018 Cayuga race, where I ran 50 miles on a hot day with 8,000 feet of elevation gain in 10 hours and 40 minutes, I thought it would be easy to get to the 60 mile goal. It didn’t seem far-fetched since this race was on the road on a flat course. Even with some loss of fitness, it should have been doable.
Slowly, the runners spread out, and by the close of the second loop, I was running alone. Now, the goal was to make a game out of running. I noticed the plants along the path and named some of them, noted the geese territory (sometimes a tense moment where I would keep a lookout to see if they would come flying at me). At one spot, two musicians were hired and performed 1970s rock about halfway in the course and their music echoed for a good quarter to a half-mile out. I heard that the organizers attempted to get more musicians but were unsuccessful. Then there were the rowing boats and, of course, there were the three aid stations—one about every mile. I created a list of things to look forward to on each loop. This is very different from trail ultras. Usually, when I’m not dodging rocks or roots, figuring out the straightest path, or deciding if I should charge or speed hike uphills, I wonder if I have enough food and water to make it to the next aid station. With this 12 hour course being on the road and well supported, all those variables were out leaving me to my thoughts.
On the third loop, I ran with an older runner. He said he has been doing 24-hour races for 40 years. He also mentioned that he once ran a 2:30 marathon. When learning I was doing the 12-hour event, he remarked that there was no 12 hour back in his day; only 50 miles, 100k, and 24 hours races. I noticed he left out the 50k distance as well. He emphasized to keep moving unless you need to go to the bathroom. Eventually, we parted ways as he wanted to say something to the band as we passed. Thanks to him, this third loop went pretty fast.
At the start of my fourth loop, I ate a bagel with a veggie patty. It tasted great! Soon my feet started to hurt and I decided to wear toe socks for the race, something which was new. I think my fear of road ultras was creeping in and I was afraid of getting some sort of blister, so I broke the “never try new things on race day” rule. Thinking about this now, this is bizarre since I have run many ultras through streams and mud and never gotten a blister. Fatigue started creeping in too on this loop and I started to wonder if I should have stuck to my usual diet of gels. I changed my goal to something between A and B, 52 miles. I thought it would be nice to do two marathons but would be happy with over 50 miles. The race didn’t have any soda to my disappointment which is my usual go-to for sugar in ultras. As I finished the loop, I saw the main aid station tent have brownies. I took one and also ate two of the ladoos. Then I switched shoes and put on a music playlist I made years ago based on suggestions on Facebook.
My body felt renewed with the sugar rush and music, and I got out of the mental stump I was falling into. For the next loop, I ignored the walk breaks and also decided on every loop I altered between brownies and “magic” muffins. For fluids, I started alternating between cryptomax electrolytes and a homemade maple water drink. I started the race drinking six fluid ounces of water per loop, but when I started feeling tired, I decided I needed more electrolytes to make it easier to digest the water.
On the 8th loop, I ran with a man from NJ. His longest run was a 50k, and he was a 4:00:07 marathoner (so close to breaking 4 hours). He had done the virtual NYC marathon last year as well. He wasn’t too confident about how far he could get. I only caught up to him because he walked a loop with his wife. We finished our marathon distance together. We clocked a 6:02 marathon, my slowest road marathon! By now, the hamstring wiggle was gone, replaced by my feet hurting. He stopped to rest after we finished the loop. I changed my socks and shoes. The change of shoes felt great; each time so far, I felt like my feet were a bit fresher.
On the 11th lap, I caught up to two guys that were suffering. One asked if I was having fun yet, and I said it goes here and there. They were one lap ahead of me (because I heard their lap count as we finished a lap). They took long breaks, which I interrupted as they were on the verge of quitting and that gave me a goal; it motivated me to beat them. At the end of my 12th lap, I learned that this was their 13th and they decided to trash themselves to finish it. That motivated me to do my 13th and my 14th to “beat” them. A young kid also came up to me on this loop and wished me good luck in my 12 hours which lifted my spirits for a bit. The route passes by a few picnic areas, so seeing people enjoying their Saturday was a typical sight throughout the race.
After the 14th lap, though, I was back in the struggle bus. My feet hurt so much that walking was starting to feel hard. I wear pretty light cushioned shoes on trails and my feet could last pretty long thanks to the softer surface of trails. I resolved just to walk a loop. Fifteen minutes after making that decision, I received a text from Nancy that she and Abby were coming. I told Nancy about the race the day before, and she mentioned maybe coming to support. I tried to discourage it by saying it was too out of the way. It wasn’t like I didn’t want support, but I find it hard to ask when it’s just for me. I’m here selfishly running my race, and it doesn’t feel like I should inconvenience others. I texted back stating that I felt pretty dead already. My thought was that maybe letting them know that I was pretty done would discourage them from coming. Instead, I got a text telling me to hang on till they got there. Like magic, this turned on a switch to me, and all of a sudden, I felt revived. I ran the rest of the loop, completely ignoring the walk breaks strategy again. With the option to do how much you want to, I lost internal motivation to push through the pain once I felt pretty bad. With Nancy and Abby coming, that external motivation made me keep going. I wanted to keep trying till they came and then hope their presence could keep me going.
Passing the main tent and aid station for the 15th time, I started thinking that I might miss Nancy and Abby (I assumed I could only meet them at the main tent area) and soon started feeling discouraged and feeling pain again. Another well-timed text from Nancy said that she just parked at the first water aid station which was just a half-mile from where I was heading. I got my strength back up and made it to them. I know Nancy wanted to run with me, but Abby did the NYRR Mini 10K that morning and wasn’t sure if she was up for more running. To my surprise, she joined as well, and I ran the final loop with them. Talking to those two made the time click fast, and I didn’t notice the effort. Nancy brought a bottle of Gatorade which I gladly chugged down. I’ve wanted something like Gatorade the whole day. We met the man I talked to on my third loop and ran together for a bit. I was amazed at his ability to keep a conversation going. Passing the main tent, the race director advised me to make it to the next aid station.
At the end of the 12 hours, you only get credit for the last aid station you pass. I started talking with a man in the 24-hour race during my final push. He explained that he now just speed hikes the entire time and could still hit some impressive mileage. Looking at my watch, at about 200 feet from the aid station, I saw that I only had about 7 minutes to make it to the next one upon making this one. The next one was a mile away, so it wasn’t possible in my current state. I was barely keeping up with this guy’s hiking pace so I decided to walk it in. After making a weak effort at stretching, I got a ride from Nancy back to the start. I also got assistance packing up and loading the car, which I was very grateful for. I made it to 48.3 miles. Not what I thought I could do, but pretty satisfied with the effort.
I knew that the mental game is crucial in the sport of running. Even on a 5k distance, if you start feeling like you’re struggling and don’t think you could hold on, you won’t. I applied a few tricks but I was surprised at how motivating it was to have people come to support you. I went from someone struggling to walk to someone who could run pretty strongly from just the idea that someone would be there. The mind is such a fantastic factor in what we think might be our physical limits. I realized I was also afraid of running long distances on the road (7 years of trail ultras before taking on this road race) and that made me act in a way that wasn’t right for me. Going forward, I need to look at my mental game and preparation and not just focus on the act of running. And on a daily schedule, I will look further into how my expectations of workouts and runs should be so I can do my best on race day.
The following double-blog post is written by co-founders Maria Wong and Edwin Guzman. Starting with Maria and then following up with Edwin, they both discuss their experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic and their renewed motivation for racing since then. Both will be representing QDR at the 125th Boston Marathon this Fall on Monday, October 11, 2021.
More than a year ago, I was flying high — I had gotten a new job, I signed a new lease, and I was in the best shape of my life. And then it all came to a screeching halt.
To be honest, I didn’t believe that the US would get impacted by COVID-19, based on previous airborne diseases that have transpired in China. I was so ready to run the Boston Marathon in 2020, but when the NYC Half got cancelled a few days before it was supposed to be hosted, I knew that everything would change. I had my last hard training run that weekend and then I caught COVID-19.
Those two weeks were the dimmest days of my life. I could barely move, eat or talk. Everyday felt foggy but I could always hear the sirens late in the day and early the next morning. It was a scary time. When I ventured out a few days after I felt no symptoms, my body didn’t feel like my own. Anxiety seeped out of me. My breathing was short and erratic. I couldn’t focus on my run because I had to dodge PPE littered on the road and flattened roadkill every few steps. My internal self was battling with my physical self and I couldn’t get either of them to cooperate. When I got home, I didn’t want to go out again. But Kevin would convince me and stay by my side each time. Still, it would take about eight weeks for me to feel like a semblance of my old running self again.
After recovering, I fell back into my old pattern of taking the summer off and trying to enjoy the miles. What I didn’t see coming was the turmoil of the nation’s unresolved racial discrimination and injustices highlighted at height of summer. Everything bad just seemed to keep compounding. It affected me deeply and I couldn’t run without bursting into tears or feeling a tightness in my chest. But I soldiered on, with Kevin by my side.
Even though many things were still uncertain, I felt that I needed something to keep myself “sane” and in control. So I started marathon training again. At first, I felt a jolt of excitement, but the anxiety of the summer came back. I would try to override it, but it was always lurking in the background — at every workout, every training run. I tried really hard last fall and this past winter to grasp onto that motivation that had powered me through many training cycles, but it was just out of reach. I was disappointed in myself and questioned my purpose every day. Why am I running? How could I focus on running my best times when people were dying and being killed? Do my workouts even matter? I donated so much money and time into causes and protests that I believed in last year but it didn’t seem like enough.
The one bright spot of last year was using running as a way to help people and organizations that mattered to me. In between training, Queens Distance Runners raised funds to support teammates that didn’t receive stimulus checks; our leadership called teammates to see how they were doing and if they needed financial help; QDR hosted virtual races to raise funds for local community organizations and groups; and we put together socially-distant training runs and races approved by the Parks Department. It was hard navigating the new circumstances and restrictions but I felt better knowing that people who needed help were getting it directly through us, immediately. Though I wasn’t proud of my own training, I am proud of helping my Fam, the community and local organizations that needed it.
At the beginning of this year, I felt another wave of sadness when the news of the Atlanta shootings and the attacks on Asian elders proliferated all news channels. It felt like my teenage years were coming back to haunt me — that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, American enough. These feelings directly translated to my training and I perceived myself to be falling behind, yet again. I felt helpless and hopeless. Somehow, I found the courage to put together a protest in Flushing and was overwhelmed by how many people showed up in support. It made me realize that there were good people around me that reminded me often that I am good enough and that I can do it. I think this realization really helped my mental state and my running finally clicked in the last two weeks of my training cycle. I was finally hitting the prescribed splits and I felt like me again.
On April 18, I ran my twelfth marathon at the Coach Medina Marathon in Rockland State Park. It is my second fastest marathon in my ten years of running. Even though I felt great in the past two weeks, truthfully, my head and heart were not fully in the game. I blame myself — I had little to no motivation throughout the whole training cycle and I allowed a lot of external factors to affect me. During the entire race, I kept thinking, why am I doing this? Kevin ran 18 miles with me and I was surrounded by teammates and training partners, but where was my purpose? I felt disappointed in myself when it was over. I was smiling on the outside but frowning on the inside. I was truly happy for my teammates and training partners but it would take me another two weeks of reflection to acknowledge my own feelings about my performance.
And then two days later, I hesitantly signed up for Boston 2021.
You’re probably thinking, is she crazy? Why would she sign up for another marathon after experiencing such a bad training cycle? You’re not wrong in thinking that.
In the days after, I reflected a lot on the past year. I examined everything — from the snacks I decided to eat to each rep of each workout. I took a lot of long walks and did a lot of yoga and meditation. It really helped me to slow down, step back and just look at the facts. Yes, emotionally, it was my hardest training cycle. My splits weren’t that bad but I didn’t believe in myself and allowed the negativity of my own thoughts to swallow me. I knew that not every run was going to be good, but it was difficult to see that when everything else was already out of my control.
These past six weeks, I’ve paid more attention to how my body feels versus what pace I’m going. It’s because of these runs that I decided that I would gauge my efforts more seriously and focus less on my splits and times for my next training cycle. After this past year, I need a change and, so far, I feel like I have rediscovered some of my confidence. It helped that restrictions are being lifted and people are getting vaccinated. Things have been on the upswing and I feel a shift in the air, which has shifted my outlook. I feel myself looking forward to running again; I feel a renewed purpose and excitement to run again. And as things continue to ease, I am excited to be able to run in a major event with fellow competitors from around the nation again. It feels like a lifetime ago, but I finally feel motivated and hopeful again.
Last February in 2020, I felt a deep sense of dread from all the COVID-19 news. The number of people infected with COVID-19 started to increase steadily, the City was confused, and rumors were flying around about whether this or that location would be closed due to an infected case in the building. And even through all of that, trying to adjust to a pandemic world and now the aftermath after a vaccine, I can’t shake off a lot of the negativity, just yet. Thankfully, future race events have changed that for me.
Once the 2020 NYC Half got cancelled and I received news about working remotely for (at that time) a month, I knew everything would change. Of course, no one knew how long it would last and that we’d be in lockdown for over a year, but once cases and deaths due to COVID-19 kept rising after the initial “let’s shelter in place for two weeks”, it made a lot of sense to stay inside for the foreseeable future. It also, as much as it hurt, made sense to see all big races get cancelled or postponed for the fall or for the rest of the year.
Luckily, I didn’t get infected. I think. If I did, I had minor symptoms that made it slightly harder to run for two days, but I ended up taking a week off just in case. It was tough hearing about friends and family suffering through the early months of summer in 2020. Even as others got sick and some passed away from COVID, many kept complaining about cancelled races or contemplating when they’d be back. Others not reading the room, or not being aware of the state of the world, really messed with my motivation to get back to racing. As much as I enjoyed working hard for a PR or running with friends, it was just that much more important that we stayed safe so we could return to some sense of normalcy.
Prior to the pandemic in early 2020, I signed up for the 2020 TCS NYC Marathon. It was my goal race of the year not just because it was the NYC Marathon but because I signed up with Make the Road NY (MRNY) to fundraise for their Legal Services department. MRNY provides a wide range of legal services to families, but the work they provide for undocumented and DACA recipients in NYC means a lot to me. I’ve been through the DACA struggle personally; it still haunts me in certains ways every day, and it’s easy to feel hopeless. Unfortunately, that initiative fell through because the 2020 TCS NYC Marathon got canceled, but I hope many donated to the organization and the cause (and you still can).
In addition to race cancellations, COVID-19 wasn’t the only event that affected everyone in 2020; we all encountered racial and social injustices personally, or saw how it affected others and systemic injustices in the systems we live in. In many ways, I put running first because it was an escape from everything I had to deal with for the majority of my life. Although doing so can help, you can’t run away from problems all the time. It wasn’t just the insecurity of growing up as an immigrant and feeling like I didn’t belong here, but also having the nagging thought every day that I actually did not belong here.
In some ways, living through a pandemic has shown me what kind of person I am and what kind of person I want to be. The leader inside me didn’t come out in ways I wanted to because I focused elsewhere. Although I helped QDR organize funds for teammates who needed support during the height of the pandemic or helped organize virtual races to fundraise for local organizations, it felt like I wasn’t doing enough.
After getting vaccinated against COVID, I felt a big sigh of relief. What really pushed my confidence towards returning to “normal” was being able to set vaccination dates for my parents and siblings; hours spent refreshing trying to find a vaccination date, time and site lifted my hopes up when the registration confirmations came through. Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I still feel uncomfortable in many situations with large crowds. But seeing the city and teammates being comfortable eases my nerves.
Now, we are starting to have races with larger crowds and with minimal social distancing. As many more get vaccinated and the number of cases decreases, we’ve been a part of races with a good size of runners; and we, as QDR, have hosted many races safely and without issues. Although I bike-paced many waves of the Queens Marathon in the Fall of 2020 and the Spring of 2021, it didn’t hit me to sign up for a race until I helped pace Kevin at the Faster Together Half Marathon in April of this year. The feeling of lining up at a race start line and being in a race (even though I dropped out after finishing pacing duties) felt great and motivated me to sign up for the 2021 Boston Marathon.
So here I am now, getting drenched in sweat after running for five minutes outside and re-thinking my decision to train for a marathon through the blistering hot summer. As awful as it is to feel the sun burning my skin and dehydrating me towards the end of a run, I am as motivated as ever to run another big marathon this Fall. Seeing more and more vaccinated friends running and training together is bringing a sense of normalcy for the running community and it’s beautiful to see. We are not out of this pandemic yet, however, and when we get through this we will still deal with the aftermath. For now, stay safe, keep following the guidelines and I’ll see you out on the roads.
“Seems like forever ago that we could gather closely like this but just wanna give a special congratulations to all of the FAM for your dedication and perseverance, we have accomplished so much this year both in running and in building the community.” – Mike Bocchinfuso
We couldn’t have said it better. Mike’s words ring true for us as we all lived through a tough year affected in many ways. As we close out the year, we want to highlight some accomplishments by QDR and teammates, making the best out of a situation we could not have predicted.
First off, we managed to hold two more QDR Half and Queens Marathon events in December. On the 5th we held the event at the Rockaways and on the 13th we held the Last Dance at Flushing Meadows Park. We really appreciate all the volunteers and the runners that helped make the two last events as safe and fun as possible. Expect more races as we head into 2021.
This year we held two charity events. Every year we have a toy drive in December leading up to Christmas for children in shelters in Queens. Usually, we combine the toy drive with a race but this year we held no race. This year we collaborated with other Queens clubs under the Queens Running Collective group to host a larger toy drive in Queens with multiple drop-off spots. Make sure to follow Queens Running Collective to find out more about events in the future.
The second event we held was the Miracle on 34th Avenue which was a sneaker drive for Kids of Queens. If you followed us through the year, you may have noticed two high schoolers training with us in Forest and Juniper Park. They’re fast athletes but they did not have proper shoes or a watch! We love to help out but wanted to reach more Kids of Queens this past month.
Yes, we have been holding group runs but with an enforced 10-person limit. This has allowed us to keep the runs going weekly, to break up into smaller groups if more than 10 athletes join, and to better get to know one another. Huge thanks to all the group run leaders this past year and also to the new ones who volunteered for new group runs in 2021!
Luckily, we’ve only had one snowstorm this past month. It kept us off the roads for a few days but luckily we held multiple events where selfless teammates came to shovel and clear paths for runners at tracks and at Flushing Meadow Parks. We really couldn’t have kept going without your help!
As soon as we heard of the vaccine, our hopes for a better 2021 went high. Even with a vaccine, there are still unknowns but this is just the start. We want to thank and congratulate Ji Soo Kim who is a front-line worker (pediatric nurse) who received the COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December.
Lastly, we want to applaud all the new Marathoners this year. COVID-19 threw our plans out the window. For first-time marathoners, this hurt because many of us plan to run a marathon well in advance. When we find out that we got into Berlin or NYC, for example, we plan a long-term plan for those races. So having all those plans canceled made running a marathon this year special, especially for new marathoners.
Take Ron Goldsman who started off supporting his wife Ann-Marie at races. Soon he caught the running bug himself and started off with short distance runs and races. We still remember many events this year where he slowly increased the distance of his runs as well as his pace. We’re proud of all the milestones he completed throughout the past few months alongside many of our teammates, including other first-time marathoners like Khan Sakeeb.
It’s stories like Ron’s that kept us going in 2020 and will inspire us to lace up our sneakers in 2021. Although we did as much as possible in this “new normal”, it wouldn’t have been possible without every member who comes out and helps. No matter how big or small, we appreciate everything you do for us so we can do more for you and the running community.
Thank you and hope to safely run with you all soon, Queens Distance Runners