Most competitive runners find these times to be frustrating, none more than those about to enter a new age group.
You don’t have to remind Doylestown native Tracey Sawyer. She just crossed over perhaps the biggest bracket change of all, namely into the masters division.
At a time when she should be going up against the best over-40 female striders in Pennsylvania, the northeast and even the entire United States, Sawyer can only train and bide her time.
Think of it: Her groundbreaking 17:46 5K time just two years ago would still project to one of the fastest age-adjusted times in the USA.
Who knows when racing might return? If the Boston Marathon, the granddaddy of them all, sees fit to call things off for the only time in 124 years, what chance is there that any races will be held in 2020?
All that said, Sawyer remains patient and at peace with the whole situation. She knows that racing eventually will return and when it does, she plans to be ready.
Having just turned 40 on May 25, Sawyer has a good perspective on what it’s like to keep her training at somewhat of a high level even though competitions which she looks forward to, such as the Bucks 5K Series, will not be happening this year.
“That is kind of a key point,’’ she said in a telephone conversation on Monday. “For a lot of women, it’s like ‘oh, getting older.’ But for me, I was really excited to turn 40, to become a masters and not have to worry about competing against 25-year-olds.
“So the longer this (pandemic) goes on. . .I’d like to get a race in before I’m 41 necessarily. So that is kind of ironic. But I am looking forward to competing in the masters.’’
A quick check of last year’s USATF Outdoor Championships results showed that Sawyer probably could have finished in the top three in the country for masters and top two in the 40-44 division this year.
However, that’s all speculation for now. In the interim, Sawyer wants to maintain her recent run of good health.
When we last spoke to her in 2017, she was just getting over a series of foot fractures partially caused by possible osteoporosis and low weight issues.
She’s made adjustments, including now, with some of it caused by social distancing circumstances, and that perhaps has resulted in a healthier approach to her training. She still runs 50 to 55 miles per week but not with a great sense of urgency.
“I do like having races and having goals and everything,’’ she said. “Right now is definitely relaxing. When I was doing group runs (early mornings). . .now I’m able to sleep in a little more on the weekends.
“Actually, with us turning into the yellow phase, we had kind of our first group run this past weekend. Just being able to run with someone different, who is maybe a little slower – it doesn’t matter. I just want to talk and catch up with them.’’
The Warrington resident and Central Bucks East High School graduate says these past three months have showed what running means to her life.
“I always know how much I love running,’’ she said. “I feel like I’ve never taken it for granted. When something like this happens, you look forward even more to when things get totally back to normal.’’
One of the big disappointments for Sawyer was the cancellation of the Bucks 5K Series. She’s won the series overall title several times but a lot of the attraction is getting together with friends and competitors each spring.
“The biggest disappointment for me is not being able to do group runs or track workouts,’’ she said. “I’m pretty self-motivated, I’m going to go out and run everyday but I do like hanging out with others after running.
“I was going to do at least four of the Bucks 5K Series races. And I was going to do the Carlsbad 5,000 (a prestigious national race in California). And Broad Street. I can’t see them having any races this year at this point.’’
The important thing now is to stay healthy for when that first starting gun goes off one of these days.
“I’ve been healthy for about two years,’’ she said. “My weight has been good, I do feel a lot healthier and I’ve just been more cautious, trying to stay on softer surfaces a little more.
“So I’ve been healthier. That’s why I’m trying to stay away from the speedwork and the higher intensity until there’s a race.’’