This tale is one of good news and bad news. It’s one of death and destruction and also of dragons and sorcerers, minus the dragons and the sorcerers. Mostly, it’s a tale of the modern era.
It begins with me, outrunning my problems without proper training to outrun anything. My friends and I committed to running in this past Saturday’s Montgomery Half Marathon. Andrew and Rebekah injured themselves during training, and I just neglected training at all. A month before the race I ran eight miles, and then I stopped. A week before the race I told myself if I could do nine, I’d sign up.
Several days before my nine-mile attempt, I was in sniffing distance of paying off a student loan. I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the Montgomery Half anyway, so instead of registering for it or keeping any money aside for anything at all, I throttled just about everything I had to the final blow that led to the demise of that loan. Don’t worry, I still have $38,000 left to pay across four other loans. But damn, it felt good to bury one more.
So then I ran nine miles, and felt like I should at least attempt the Montgomery Half. Even if I had to walk parts, and even if it was going to be my worst time yet, I’d still complete it, damnit. A half marathon is 13.1 miles.
I checked the data on my other half marathons, because data gives me life, and realized my idiocy is a trend. Although the other halfs were completed after an extensive training period, I had never trained up for more than eight miles before either of the other races. WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF.
In the interest of being upfront about my finances and keeping conversations open about money so that we don’t feel ashamed when we compare ourselves to others, I’ve become unabashedly blunt about my income and debt. Last year I made $23,000. My debt-to-income ratio is 67%. I owe $38,000 in student loans and $3,600 on my credit card. My car was purchased upfront with the money from my grandparents’ passing and I have no utility bills. I pinch pennies left, right, and center. I sometimes buy craft coffee because I love socializing in coffee shops, and sometimes I build websites while I’m there, and that earns me a little extra money. And: I love avocado toast.
So I posted a shorter version of this on Facebook. I appealed to the masses to cover my $55 race registration fee. Asking for financial help is never easy, and I’m proud to the point of fault of standing on my own two feet as much as I do. However, I asked for any five people to just give me $11 because I really, really wanted to do this race. After that loan was paid off, I had $56 to hold me over to the next paycheck. I wanted people to know that this is what pedaling as fast as you can looks like, while also trying to do great things. We’ve chosen this economic structure, and that means we can’t rely on the government to always save the day. It means that, sometimes, the community can choose how we help each other.
An avalanche of money came in, with a couple of anonymous donors paying for more than the registration fee. Many wrote notes saying they knew I had made it, but wanted to buy me a post-race beer. Mountains of support and love flooded my Venmo account, and I feel so incredibly thankful and hopeful about our desire to want to help people just because.
Rebekah’s injury kept her from attempting the half, but she knew she could try the 5k scheduled for the same day. The majority of my donors knew Rebekah; I had it on good faith that they loved her, too. So I sent some of the donated money her way to cover her registration as well. It was going to be the first half marathon without each other.
Let the record show that I beat her in both of the previous races, but she’s running about four minutes faster per mile than I am right now, and there’s not a chance I would have won if she didn’t have a stupid knee right now.
And then the races, along with all of America’s other favorite sporting events, got cancelled. Our mayor announced the decision to cancel the Montgomery Half Marathon and 5k in the same hour the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Alabama, right here in Montgomery County, was reported.
Rebekah and I were left wondering: So, now what? All this money from all these nice people came in, and the race was cancelled. And it was cancelled to slow the spread of a highly contagious disease that we know basically nothing about. We were supposed to stay home and play card games instead of stepping out in public just to run a bazillion miles for no reason.
We, and about fifty other stubborn running maniacs, ignored the public announcements and committed to getting to that start line, anyway. She logged her fastest-ever mile time, and I was a minute and thirty seconds short of a personal record (BUT I GOT LOST TWICE ON THE ROUTE, SO I’LL COUNT THIS AS A WIN).
I’m carrying a heavy decision these days. While I understand we should be self-quarantining to slow the spread of the virus, I also don’t want to give in to fear. I want to live my life and support local businesses that will probably suffer to the point of permanent closure over this. Fear does not run my life. Hope does.
A lot of people disagree with me. I’m sure some think the fifty of us that showed up to run a cancelled event are part of the problem.
And this is what I have to say to that:
We all respond to crises differently, and we all prioritize different things. I cope by continuing to live my life normally. When Mali was hit with the third largest number of Ebola cases, I got on the plane, anyway. I don’t think the people hunkering down right now are dummies; I just don’t want them to think that I’m one just because I can’t find the line between being over-reactionary and being cautious.
Yesterday, my brother’s family cat suddenly died. I am stricken with grief over their loss and wish I was there with them to listen to stories about their companion. I don’t know how to help from this far away. This is how I want to live: thankful for my ability to love a cat, who I’ve never met, simply for his ability to bring a branch of my family so much joy. I am more stuck by Shadow’s death than I am by the possibility that I may become exposed to coronavirus.
This is how I don’t want to live: in a world that makes decisions based off fear, burdened by our own refusal to fix our broken healthcare system. Those who have adamantly opposed a single-payer healthcare system have blood on their hands. There are people hunkering down in their houses, unable to get the medical help they desperately need, because they cannot afford it.
Should I catch the coronavirus, this is what I will do:
- I will lock myself and Andrew up in our house for fourteen days, per the request of medical professionals. This quarantine will last longer if it takes Andrew a few days for symptoms to show. Sorry, Andrew, but if I’m going down, you’re going down with me.
- I will not go to the doctor, per the guidance of medical professionals who say we need to save those beds for the old, the very young, or the immunocompromised members of our society.
- I will treat myself the way I would any similar virus: with my stash of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, NyQuil, DayQuil, water, and puppy snuggles.
If you’re practicing precautionary self-quarantine, that’s wonderful. Please consider ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant or buying gift cards from your favorite places online. These businesses need to survive.
Remember that life will go on after this virus passes, and we need to think about how to make that recovery process as painless as possible.
I recommend going for a run.