Andrew Buikema, a runner and race director in Rockford, Mich., was continuing his years-long quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon -- and completely crushing his training runs -- when COVID-19 changed everything. But the pandemic only fueled his already-high motivation, even after his goal race was postponed -- twice.
“I’ve been putting in way more mileage than I ever have in my entire life,” says Andrew, who has two daughters and teaches fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students. “I want to keep up my fitness, I want to keep up with my ultimate goal of qualifying for Boston, and I want to just make sure I don’t lose what we’ve already worked on. Before the quarantine, I was training for the Carmel Marathon in Indiana, which was set to take place on April 4. I’d never put in so many miles in my life.”
While Andrew acknowledges that the pandemic and its impact on his race plans “let the wind out of my sails a little bit,” he’s not giving up on his goal of qualifying and is considering which marathon he’ll tackle to make it happen. “The whole quarantine -- it has actually upped my game,” he says.
In this latest episode, Heather and Cassy talk with Andrew about his changing race plans and goals. All three share a love of the Bayshore Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K -- a Memorial Day weekend tradition in Traverse City -- and reminisce about this beloved event given they recorded the show on the day the race expo would have taken place. Heather also shares a few reader stories of the Bayshore races as well.
Andrew is the co-race director of the Rivertown Races - 5K, 10K & Half Marathon near Grand Rapids. This event originally was set for April of this year and of course couldn’t take place because of the pandemic. Rather than cancel, race organizers chose to postpone until later this summer. They’re making plans for an in-person event the first weekend of August, and Andrew talks about how things obviously will need to be much different now. “We’re making plans for everybody to be at a safe distance.”
The Rivertown Races, which gives back to several charities in Grand Rapids, hold a special place in Andrew’s heart, which he explains during the conversation.
Learn more about Rivertown Races here: https://rivertownraces.com/
Earlier this year, just before the pandemic hit and altered life as we knew it, Cassy Stone was crushing her workouts.
“When this all started, I was in the gym twice a week,” said Cassy, a northern Michigan runner, cyclist and mom of three. “I was also cycling three times a week and I was in the pool trying to learn how to swim to prepare for IRONMAN Traverse City 70.3.”
But then life changed in what felt like an instant, unfolding in so many new, strange and challenging ways as COVID-19 took hold in the U.S. In mid- to late-March, schools temporarily closed. Spring events, including beloved races, were postponed or cancelled outright. Jobs were lost. Then came Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s initial stay-safe-stay-home order for all Michiganders on March 24. What’s followed has been a two-month quarantine that’s sadly led to further closures and heartbreaking cancellations and losses. As of this writing, northern Michigan and the U.P. are set to reopen this weekend, with some stipulations, so there is some light at the end of this tunnel … perhaps. There’s still so much we just don’t know.
“I am feeling for sure that I am going through a mourning process of setting a huge goal and that may not happen for me. And trudging through the process of losing a job, too,” she says.
“When this all went down, I crumbled. I stopped moving, I stopped exercising, I wasn’t really sleeping all that great. And I went from being this really focused person … setting this huge goal to, I kind of crumbled. Then I thought, maybe I’m not the person I thought I was. Which is crazy.”
And yet, as Cassy shares, this experience is teaching us things. Things maybe we knew and had forgotten, and things that are new and eye-opening. Just as we push through a tough, sweat-drenched workout, or dig deep to find the strength to just keep moving to reach the finish line of a big goal race, we’re moving forward. It may not be exactly how we envisioned it, but we’re doing it. And right about now, I think many of us are letting out a deep breath, accepting what is and isn’t (we’ve all been hearing about the “new normal”) and thinking about what we can do to take care of ourselves, our families and communities as life continues to unfold in ways we couldn’t have imagined even a few months ago.
As Cassy so eloquently says, “I have had obstacles before -- we’ve all had obstacles -- and obstacles don’t block the path. They are the path. Truly. And this is what it is. Things are going to go on.”