The pandemic has brought about some interesting transformations, many of which are fueled by social media.
Because none of us had ever experienced something like COVID-19, we immediately and urgently took an interest in the epidemiology. And because of the information overload, many people have become living room epidemiologists, spitting out complex information as if we know what we are talking about – which most of the time we don’t.
Likewise, many of us have become wheelchair social psychologists, and we’ll start there today, pretending to know what we’re talking about. Go back to March 2020. What was the immediate impact of the sudden pandemic? Social isolation! What is the opposite of that? Social link !
Matthew Spinale of Wappingers Falls experienced the dizzying reality of the two incongruous conditions, almost simultaneously. In our continuing series of ‘Pandemic Silver Liner’ stories, Spinale’s is another example of the ingenuity of the local running community.
Before the pandemic, Spinale, 43, had pledged to follow a regular running regimen, three to four times a week. It was not easy ; his job – he’s an organizational change management specialist at Rutgers University – required a two-hour commute each way, so it was difficult to stall exercise time. He was resourceful, taking a shower at work when needed to keep things running.
Then, when the pandemic forced him into a work-from-home scenario, voila! “I get four hours of my life back every day,” he said. “Now I could spend more time running. “
It is the silver lining. Storm clouds? Well, the races he had planned have all been closed, along with the rest of the world’s activities. He was planning two half marathons in March, followed by Millbrook’s first marathon in the spring of 2020.
“I kept running even though I didn’t have a goal,” said Spinale. “Then virtual races started to appear. I didn’t see them favorably, because “it’s not the same as a real race”. The low cost, cool medals / loot, and motivation they would provide slowly changed my mind. ”
The extensive options of virtual races have allowed him to explore new horizons, both literally and figuratively. Spinale signed up for a virtual race where he ran a half marathon by day and 10 kilometers at night. “I had never run twice in a day,” he said.
Then, in June, Spinale was introduced to trail running and invested in a new Garmin watch to replace its archaic 15-year-old version. He no longer had to write down his race data, and he was introduced to the joys of chasing vertical gain on races like so many other local runners. He also took to running with a bandana on his head – he’s now known as the “bandana guy” among local runners!
In September, Spinale took part in the Fleet Feet Fall in Love with Running challenge, where you had to accomplish 35-50 original things while running, requiring a lot of photos and social media posts. Some people were happy to get 35 within the two-month time frame to win a medal, but Spinale sought to accomplish the 50. In the process, he won a $ 100 gift card.
“The challenge introduced me to some new runners, via social media and the need to run with other runners as part of the challenge,” he said. “I was a solo runner for the past 15 years. It was the start of the social race for me.
The irony of it all did not escape Spinale. “While isolated from most of the world and from work,” he said, “I started to meet and run with other runners. We have such a supportive group of runners in the Hudson Valley and this is a critical part of continued success. During this challenge I also hit my highest mileage in weeks / months and realized I was capable of more. ”
How much more? At the end of the year, Spinale joined a group of local runners – led by his frequent trail partner, Steven Estremera of Millbrook – in an attempt to complete the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail from Croton Dam to Bryant Park in New York, on New Years Eve. Spinale exceeded its own expectations, as well as its longest 15 mile run! – and completed the 41.65 mile trip.
“No fanfare, no medals, and sadly not even family and friends to celebrate with… but I did,” Spinale wrote in a post-performance essay for a Labor newsletter. “I took a selfie to greet the moment. Then, as tears rose to my eyes, I texted my wife that I had done it. I couldn’t really tell if I was happy or sad, honestly I think it was a bit of both.
Hampered and sore from the effort, the reality of 2020 hit him as he made his way to Grand Central Station for the train ride back to Croton, followed by an hour’s drive home. It was New Years Eve, in the “city that never sleeps”, and yet… the city was asleep on this December 31st. “It was sorry,” he recalls.
Once again, the clouds of a global pandemic. But silver liners continue to shine for Spinale in 2021. Like many runners featured here over the past few weeks, he’s competed in the Hudson Valley Elevation Challenge and Wandering Wednesdays, immersing himself deeply in the highly social trail scene. .
Also in the first half of this year, he transformed his pandemic fitness into personal best times on the road – for the half marathon (1:33:55), the marathon (3:25:37 ) and the 5 km (20:04).
And while he is currently in a lull in his running and running goals, Spinale has a number of running goals for the second half of 2021, including stepping out of his “comfort zone” and possibly attempting longer and more events. ultra-distance.
Let’s go back to the good sides: “If anything,” he said, “the pandemic made the balance between my run, my job and my family life a lot easier. I was getting up as early as I did. work but to run, even though I didn’t have to travel two hours. I continued to get up early a few days a week, while allowing my wife to get up on other days to work out. exercise.”
The challenge now will be to return to its long journey two days a week, as the world continues to open up more and more.
Spinale plans to continue his fitness habits relentlessly, with his three young children (ages 8, 6 and 4) doing a “victory lap” with him around the block upon his return. “I just hope they don’t see it as ‘Daddy is away a lot’ but rather inspired,” he said. “I feel like I present a good model of persistence, resolve problems, personal care among many other positive impacts that running can have on his life. “
Pete Colaizzo, a member of the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club, track coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, writes about the run every week in Players. He can be contacted at [email protected] For more information about the club, visit www.mhrrc.org