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The Advice That Keeps One Runner 'Showing Up' During Uncertain Times

A woman jogging in New York City. NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna has been running to relieve stress during the coronavirus pandemic.
Angela Weiss
AFP via Getty Images
A woman jogging in New York City. NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna has been running to relieve stress during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Lyndsey McKenna
Where: Washington, D.C.
Recommendation: Running

I didn't always love running. Growing up, I played competitive softball; a power hitter with no speed, my coaches would get creative with pinch runners and pull me from running the bases. But a few years ago, I set my sights on my first 5k. I kept racing, trying to improve my time and take on increasingly longer distances – 10ks, 15ks, half-marathons and ultimately, marathons – becoming completely consumed by the sport in the process.

I'm even one of those runners who watches the pros with reverence. Like many marathoners, I spent the morning of the 2018 Boston Marathon obsessively watching and tracking my favorite athletes. It was that Patriots Day that Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985. The forecast was foul – torrential rain, frigid New England temperatures – and Linden had even contemplated dropping out entirely.

"Once I got over the fact that I wasn't going to drop out, it was like, 'Just show up for one more mile,'" Linden told NPR. "'Show up for one more minute.'" It was a mantra Linden had shared earlier in her training cycle; her historic victory was proof of the possibilities that present themselves when you make that decision.

Ever since then, I've kept a Post-It note with those words at my desk at NPR HQ. Of course, I haven't seen the actual Post-In in months, but that simple phrase feels even more powerful these days when I lace up for a long run. With races indefinitely postponed, it can be difficult to find motivation; finding enough space to maintain adequate social distancing can be frustrating. Not every workout feels great, but that goes for times outside a global pandemic, too. But now more than ever before, I'm grateful for the thrill of testing my limits by running farther and faster and finding new ways to show up.

Lyndsey McKenna is an assistant editor and audience strategist for NPR Music.

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