For an hour, everything is normal.

By: Spencer Mahon

Wednesday, April 21st, at home in Cleveland, OH:

I am five days out from Glass City, this is something that I have looked forward to for so long. My first real racing opportunity since I ran Gasparilla in February 2020, so this is a particularly important business trip for me. I got the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination, I am past feeling like total garbage (there’s other words I would use to describe that in a day-to-day life). Today is also my first COVID-19 PCR Rapid test. I am within the 72-hour window that Lucas County, OH’s Department of Health has suggested for “large scale events.” This Glass City event is massively capped at roughly 6000 for the whole weekend when this event would usually get upwards of almost triple that number. I have tested negative for COVID-19, I am now cleared for human contact with the event organizers and volunteers. I am not USATF race legal yet though, for all intents and purposes, I am following USATF protocols for his piece and for everyone’s piece of mind and safety. The nerves have started to settle themselves in terms of racing realizing that I am going to have a race this weekend. This block couldn’t have gone better for me, I ran a new 10-mile PR in absolutely horrid conditions just 3½ weeks ago and I was a metronome for 5:15/mile which is 68:30 pace for 13.1. I am ready, this race and the weather are about to play out for me. I have done literally everything right. Now I just must answer the last remaining question.

Friday, April 23rd , Glass Bowl:

I made it to packet pickup just in time. I am all settled into an Extended Stay America in Holland, OH (just outside of Toledo City Limits) time to set up “Flat Spencer” for Sunday morning. Not too much going on tomorrow outside of my final shakeout and my final COVID-19 PCR Test to comply with USATF COVID-19 protocols and a trip to Walmart to pick up items for my pre-race breakfast.

Saturday, April 24th, Extended Stay America, Holland, OH:

The perfect date is tomorrow, and it is literally a runner’s perfect day. 45 and overcast at 6:30am, just before sunrise in the Glass City. I just ran my final shakeout and got my essentials for breakfast. One last PCR test to make sure I am race ready and not a risk to thousands of other participants on the day. Again, I am negative for COVID-19. I am race ready now, I have followed USATF protocols. Time for some Spaghetti Warehouse and an early bedtime.

Sunday, April 25th, Extended Stay America, Holland, OH. 2:25am:

I am up way before my alarm. I feel sick to my stomach, not due to anything really. I am just beyond nervous. Time to put on the Friday Night Lights soundtrack (which I use regularly as a tool to quell my anxieties) and hop in the shower.

Extended Stay America, Holland, OH. 3:15am:

Breakfast is made, I am anxiety ridden at this point and grateful for it, weirdly enough. I have not felt this in 14 months, I am trying top take this as a sign that my body is ready, and my mind is prepared. I plan to leave my hotel in 45 minutes or so just to be sure I can get my spot in the elite tent. 

Extended Stay America, Holland, OH. 4am:

****** it, I’m leaving. I cannot STAND to be in my room thinking any longer. Race kit on, flats packed, me, on the way to the tent (and maybe a trash can along the way).

Elite tent, lot 26 off Secor Road, University of Toledo. 5am:

Masks are on. Finally, some people start to arrive, I have already done a shakeout to try and quell my nerves and that is not helping. I’m able to start warming as some friends from the track I met back in college are starting to show up. I am grateful to see them and start BS’ing with them, that calms me down a lot. 

Elite tent, lot 26 off Secor Road, UT. 6:15am.

Warmup is done. Strides being done. Walk to the start line in about 5 minutes with my friends from an old rival school.

Start Line, Secor Road, Toledo, OH. 6:34am:

Horn sounds. Race time. And for the first time in 1 year, 2 months and 2 days (427 days and about 400 since the initial COVID-19 related lockdowns and many measures to stop the spread) everything is whole to me once more. I am finally in a large-scale road race. The weekend of the Glass City Savage 5k, Owens Corning Half Marathon and Mercyhealth Glass City Marathon is the first large scale road running event since the pandemic started and the first large event in the state of Ohio ahead of the NFL Draft held in Cleveland the following weekend. This is a great for society in getting back to normalcy in not only Ohio but in the contiguous 48 United States.

Finish Line Lot, outside of the Glass Bowl, some hour or so later:

Heading back towards the Elite Tent, I catch with Seth Demoor, and him and I have a great conversation with some of his subscribers in small group (all of whom are COVID negative and/or fully vaccinated) this is my first interaction really without masks. I do feel uneasy (because all I am used to seeing are masks out and about), but I also feel safe, due to the protocols I and everyone who ran or attended Glass City adhered to before the race. I eventually had a great chat and cooldown with Seth and some others near the exit to the Glass Bowl after an ultimately disappointing result overall time wise. I was shocked to hear everyone in the elite tent ran 2:00-2:30 off what their expectations were pre-race which tells me something about where I am at fitness wise. I get to line up again in five weeks’ time on the roads and potentially in a track 10k on May 15th. Ultimately, I was grateful for the weekend, the precautions, the planning, and the rare opportunity to race in the middle of an uncertainty riddled time with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a slow return to (almost) normal, but it was such a weight lifted off everyone’s shoulders to see a large-scale event be handled perfectly safety wise by the organizers of the race who have been planning for this race for a long time and this was seen by many as an experiment of sorts for large scale events. I am just thankful for an opportunity when there have been zero opportunities for any show of fitness in the past year and two months. For an hour, everything was normal again.