Mile News

Finding Normalcy in Abnormal Times

March 18, 2020

But maybe there is something about being in the “eye of the storm.” Maybe it allows us to appreciate how wonderful and comforting normal can be.

By Rebecca Mehra

The last few days have been anything but normal. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the world has turned topsy-turvy. Our social gatherings, school, competitions and work have been cancelled in favor of embracing “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” -- foreign phrases to us just a short week ago. Our hands are dry from incessant “20 second protocol” hand washing. Our grocery stores are overrun with people hoarding Lysol products, soap and toilet paper (which I will never fully understand).

On a personal note, my upcoming races have been cancelled left and right, and like many of you, I am left wondering what the next few months of my life will look like. Will there be a track season? Will the Olympic Trials be cancelled? It is hard to wrap my head around the idea that what I have worked all year for may disappear in another haggard news report. I am feeling the effects beyond running too: my best friend’s wedding, scheduled for next weekend, was suddenly cancelled. Several of family members in Switzerland have developed fevers and coughs after close exposure to confirmed cases. It’s unnerving.

All of my other work has come to a complete stop. My projects with Stanford Athletics put on hold, as all of the students have headed home for the remainder of the academic year. My Courage to Run 5K that I have poured hours into planning has been postponed for an indefinite period of time. My city of Bend email is filled with messages from concerned citizens on how to function during this health crisis. I have become the shepherd for bad news, announcing updates to the Bend public through Mayor Sally’s social media accounts. It seems that most other city business has come to a screechy halt in order to triage for coronavirus.

Oh, and I tweeted about a tender moment outside a grocery store with an elderly couple, that ended up getting seen by nearly 40 million people. To this day I have been on CNN, Good Morning America, CBS, PBS, Fox News, plenty of local news stations, and in articles ranging from the local Bend Bulletin to Access Hollywood and the Washington Post. I have had opportunities to talk with politicians and celebrities that I never could have dreamed of exchanging two words with. Just to talk about this small act of kindness. Wild.

Yet, somehow, I have managed to cling to the moments that feel the most normal. Between news reports of more cases, emergency declarations, and stricter health protocols, I have found the most sense of calm while running. The air still smells the same, ripe with blooming Juniper and high desert spring. The feeling of hitting the ground each step with an oddly gratifying thump on the dirt trail. The chill on my face. The happy-go-lucky presence of my teammates beside me. The sound of my Garmin beeping, signaling the completion of another Mile run.

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