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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

How To Cope With A Race That Never Ends

Guest Post by Anthony Fleg, MD

DCG DADvisory Team Member

Anthony running race with his kids, wife trailing him to support
Photo taken by one of my running buddies at mile 42 of my recent 50-miler. I love the shot of my kids running with me and how happy I am despite the fatigue. This is the joy of being a dad!

As a devoted runner, I find life lessons from this kind of movement that help me get through difficult times. Journey with me for a moment…

We've signed up for a long-distance race. For some of us, this is familiar, desirable territory. For others who consider paying money to cover long distances on foot, it's a ridiculous contractual agreement. But just play along.

As we nervously approach the starting line, our race director tells us that today, we will be running a race with no defined finish line. Imagine the emotions we would feel together after hearing this news. Confusion. Frustration. “I want my money back.”

Instead of a well-defined journey, say 5k or 10k, this race with unclear distance and unknown finish line requires us immediately to switch our mindset.

Running races, like much of life’s challenges, give us a clear finish line. At age 16, we can get a driver’s license. At 18, we can vote. We know how many credits we need to finish a degree. We have clear deadlines at work for submitting a given report. Right now, many working people can cite for you the exact month at which they are eligible to retire, even if it's decades away.

So, as the gun goes off to start this uncertain race, we have a decision to make. Do we run the race disgruntled and depressed by our predicament? Or do we turn this into a chance to confront a new challenge and enjoy the experience?

Is it possible that we could enjoy nature’s beauty, the chance to see what our own body can do on that day, and the camaraderie of runners around us even more because there is no finish line to distract us?

By detaching from a “finish line mindset” could we become more present, with the goal now being to enjoy each moment?

Let’s now step into the race we are all running: the COVID-19 race on a pandemic course. This endurance event that has pushed us to the point of exhaustion and fatigue has no clear finish line. During this race, we face daily and weekly questions that runners often ask aloud on the course:

How much longer?

Can I really finish this thing?

Why aren’t there more aid stations out here?

I offer a simple change of perspective as we all try to figure out our pandemic race strategy. Let us shift our gaze from looking for the finite end of the course – a finish line that is yet to be marked – and instead, focus on the progress we are making.

Say these three simple sentences to yourself:

Enjoying the journey, step by step
  1. Today, we are one day closer to the finish than we were yesterday.

  2. This week, we are one week closer to the finish than we were last week.

  3. And this month, we find ourselves a month closer to the finish than we were last month.

We avoid the runner’s pitfall of incessantly asking “How much more is left?” Instead, we focus on our journey toward the finish, one step at a time. Enjoy the moment, listening to life’s symphony playing its beautiful music through your children, your family, your co-workers, and the sounds of nature.

“One day closer” is now our mindset. By letting go of the “finish-line mindset” and its accompanying worry about where/when the finish lies, we might also look over our shoulders. This will allow us to appreciate the year we've endured and overcome since March 2020 forced a new reality upon us. We have already run a long race together, and we should take moments to be proud of the ground already covered.

Brothers and sisters, we are getting closer to the finish with each passing day, week, and month. That is true regardless of when/where the finish line lies.

Sit with that for a few moments. Better yet, take this new mindset, lace up your shoes, and go run with it.

See you at the post-race party!


Anthony Fleg, MD, is a proud daddy of four, husband, son, and brother. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, he has called New Mexico home since 2008. He is a family physician and educator at the University of New Mexico's Department of Family and Community Medicine and College of Population Health. He's also a Coordinator/Co-Founder of the love-funded partnership, Native Health Initiative (NHI), and its Running Medicine program, both of which DCG's Daddy Appleseed Fund is a proud supporter.


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