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A Marathon Birthday: Solo Running In a Pandemic

Updated: Jul 28

This marathon race report is brought to you by our Chaski Ambassador Greg Lehman. This was his 36th birthday and the second year of this birthday-race tradition.

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Birthday Marathon - 26.2 Virtual Marathon Course from Ojai to Ventura, Segment courtesy of Josh Spiker and Cody Logan

Quick backstory:


I qualified for the Boston Marathon at the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon, my fourth time stepping up to the distance. I’m proud to say this since it’s the type of course that let me know every time I’ve stepped up to it (this being the third) that this was not going to be an easy day. I was 34 at the time, so my cutoff was 3:05, and I caught a 3:03:06. This was my first BQ, and I was lucky enough to get chosen in the lottery for the 2020 Boston Marathon.


We all know what happened, and I won’t complain about cancelled races during a global pandemic that has seen staggering amounts of death (almost 1.1 million as I’m writing this in late October 2020) and suffering. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19, and I hope things turn around for the better for everyone soon.


In spite of the pandemic, some of us with the right strain of drive and resources can continue to race in the virtual realm. To be clear, the lack of in-person competition, bibs, and official measurements set this medium apart from the usual formats we all know and love. Whether these times “count” or not invites the question of what it means for a race to “count,” and to whom.


I won’t try to have the final word on the debate here, or anywhere really. Subjective goals and preferences are part of what makes running such an inclusive community, and I don’t want that, or the lively debates around pretty much everything in this beautiful sport, to change.


For myself, I miss racing tremendously and feel incomplete if I lack a project I’m training for. So I decided I wanted to get a new marathon personal record for my 36th birthday on September 28th. I completed my first 50-miler for my birthday last year at Crimson Canyons in Richfield, Utah (catching 12:46 and 8th place overall, still not sure how, but damn proud of it, too) and I liked the idea of continuing a tradition of doing crazy things on my birthday, so this seemed like a perfect way to celebrate.


I dedicated my fifth marathon to my good friend Brad Weissberg, who was supposed to cheer me on at Boston but sadly passed away in March. Patrick and Sara Stover gave me the idea of writing the names of people who mean a lot to us on our shoes, and I did so the morning of my marathon. Brad was and is a legend, I will always miss him, and his energy put me in a great place throughout the day.


Gear:

Headband, shorts, and singlet all by HOKA ONE ONE, as well as my shoes, of course: brand new Mach 3s, blue moon/white colorway, out of the box right before go-time.

I wore the Regular Weight Running socks by Drymax, the VaporKrar Hydration WaistPak, and my Garmin Forerunner 235. I also used a TRIBE Water Resistant Armband to take my phone with me, too.


For nutrition, I brought five Roctane GUs (Cold Brew Coffee, Strawberry Kiwi, and Cherry Lime), with the plan that I would take one every five miles, though I ended up only taking four after my race took a turn towards the end.


Crew:

Cheri Whitt and the Agoura Hills chapter of the Galloway Training Group have been a pleasure to work with through my job as a field experience representative at HOKA ONE ONE. Cheri had recently run her first 100-miler and was telling me about how her friends showed up to help crew her, so I asked if she would be up for doing the same for me, pretty please. She didn’t hesitate to say yes, and her, Tawni Gomes, and Eva Gomez made the best crew I could ask for throughout my run.


I have never run competitively with someone riding a bike next to me to give me water, pep talks, and a fe