Which Way Are We Going?

David Yon, January 6, 2021

It seems as if 2020 does not want to go away, sort of like our President.  But the calendar has turned and we are almost a week into 2021 and no one is happy with the garbage from 2020 spilling over to 2021.  It is not clear why, but many people, me included, believe we get a re-set button at midnight and find the dropping of the ball and the beginning of the new year motivating. However, the number of people still getting infected with COVID-19 as well as the numbers needing hospitalization and those who don’t survive are growing at an exponential rate again.

I looked back at 2019’s exit to see what I thought about the transition from 2019 to 2020. As the year closed out and 2020 stepped up for its turn, I wrote in my column that “2019 was a rough year.”  And I thought in my head – “2020 has to be better!”  I also wrote the following:

“Tallahassee and Leon County have amazing resources for runners. Led by Gulf Winds Track Club there is a vibrant race community. Gulf Winds alone puts on more than 30 events every year. You can read about these races at https://www.gulfwinds.org/gwtc-races/.  In addition, the calendar for all races in the area shows 75 or so races likely to be run this year on dirt, pavement and tracks.

My quick count identified 10 races that have remained on the calendar for at least 40 years.”

Ouch, did I ever miss the mark on that one. It was written in early January when we barely knew the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic.   And in fact, January, February and early March were active months with successful production of many races, including the Tallahassee Marathon.  One of those races was the Shamrock Scurry 5K which was run on March 7, 2020. I was one of 490 people to finish the 5K, one of my favorites.  It never occurred to me, as I crossed the finish line, that it would be the last opportunity to run a race in Leon County during 2020, with the exception of school sponsored events. Not long after the Shamrock Scurry’s finish, COVID-19 took control and the Springtime Tallahassee 10K and 5K race permits were suspended and we learned a new phrase called “virtual racing.” 

I remember thinking, as Springtime was being postponed and eventually converted to a virtual race, that we would find acceptable alternatives that would protect runners and allow racing to go forward.  I might have laughed and said “no way” to anyone who, at that time, would have suggested Turkey Trot would be a virtual race. Almost a year later we are still struggling with the same issues and COVID -19 has viciously attacked our communities.  And yes, Turkey Trot was a virtual race. In the short term, virtual races serve a purpose.  They do still link us together but over much longer distance and through electronic media.  They allow us to continue to raise money for charities.

I have spent most of my years believing in the concept of a moral arc in the universe that bends towards justice.  Yes, it may take a long time to see the end and final destination but somehow, with the work of a lot of good people, the world can move forward toward a more perfect union. Theodore Parker, a reformer and abolitionist in the 1800’s, expressed these thoughts as follows:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice

2020 rocks those aspirations. Almost 2,000,000 deaths worldwide with more than 353, 858 of them in the US and 22,090 in Florida.  Our inability to come together and stop these numbers from continuing to grow exponentially suggests that the arc has been turned upside down and we are just climbing up a few feet before sliding back down.  Vaccines are on their way and hopefully can do what we have not done so far.

While not perfect, the way the middle school and high school cross county seasons were salvaged was a bright spot. There were a lot of new protocols that seemed to work in preventing spreading the virus and there was a real opportunity for kids to compete and keep friendships going. The GWTC Triathletes showed another way to keep races going while protecting competitors during a run-bike-run competition in St. Marks. GWTC plans to go forward with plans for the 30K and 15K later this month, implementing measures to reduce the risks from COVID-19 for competitors.  These measures include wave starts, limited contact, social distancing, no chili after the race and more. It is not where anyone wants to be but these protections, as well as others, are still necessary. This all makes us feel more alone in a world gone mad. 

I hope before it is over, 2021 overcomes what went so wrong in 2020.  Maybe we can build a few bridges instead of burning them. Maybe we can distribute the vaccine doses we receive equitably and efficiently. That would  make for a very Happy New Year!