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Despite Holy Half cancellation, some still plan to run their own race, donate registration fees

| Saturday, April 4, 2020

Though many Americans have withdrawn into their individual homes as shelter-in-place mandates press pause on unnecessary travel, others have turned to the pavement, trails and tracks to spend some time outdoors. It seems running is one activity allowing for appropriate social distancing in the midst of the current pandemic.

Saint Mary’s senior Katie Glenn is a member of the cross country team and has taken to running twice a day to spend some time alone and out of the house.

“It has probably saved my life,” Glenn said. “I remember talking to my team right after all this happened, and just saying, ‘We are so lucky that our sport is the one sport that we can still do.’”

Courtesy of Katie Glenn

Senior Katie Glenn (bottom, third from right) planned on running this year’s Holy Half with other members of the Saint Mary’s cross country team. She will run the race on her own Saturday.

Though the team has scattered since Saint Mary’s announced the continuation of spring semester through distance learning, many members have continued to train for the upcoming season together. They keep each other motivated and focused, Glenn said, even during ab workouts completed twice a week on Zoom.

Running has not only kept the team together, but also created a sense of normalcy, she said. Leaving the house to train has helped Glenn cope with the stress of living under new COVID-19 health and safety regulations.

“We’re definitely really lucky that the thing we love most is not being taken away from us,” she said. “It’s just been really nice to go into nature and do like I said, what I love the most and what feels so normal to me.”

Though Glenn still enjoys the freedom of running on her own, she said she feels the loss of the upcoming fall season, which many of her teammates still have to look forward to as underclassmen. A graduating senior, Glenn has also missed her chance to run the Holy Half Marathon as a student, as the annual race was officially cancelled March 17.

”When we heard about the University closure — just the initial four weeks, not until the end of the semester — our first thought was that there weren’t going to be any other weekends that were going to work just because April at Notre Dame is so jam-packed with different events,” Holy Half race director Kateri Budo said. “This was the only weekend that we were going to be able to hold an in-person event.”

The Notre Dame senior said she spoke with University officials and proposed a virtual race for those who registered to run on their own time. However, with student organizers spread out around the country, planning such a race did not seem feasible, Budo said.

In the email announcing the cancellation, Budo said the all of the registered runners would receive a full refund, scheduled to be issued over the following weeks. The three charities selected for sponsorship this year — Our Lady of the Road, Misericordia and Girls on the Run Michiana — will be the recipients of next year’s half marathon funds.

Though they had been offered a refund, some runners insisted their registration fees still be donated to the three organizations. Budo sent a follow-up email to all who had signed up for the race, officially offering the option to fill the donation instead of receiving a refund.

“We have had a number of you request that your registration be given as a donation to our charities rather than refunded,” Budo said in the email. “We are so grateful for your generous hearts in this time of uncertainty.”

Runners who still wished to give were instructed to fill out a Google form indicating their choice. From this year’s cohort, 280 runners opted to go this route.

These donations are especially appreciated, Budo said, as the three organizations are losing the expected contribution from the 2020 race.

“They really need our help, and they weren’t going to get the same amount of support that we could have given them if we had actually had the race,” Budo said. ”It was really wonderful getting everyone’s emails and seeing the numbers climb. It’s been really great to get that response and hear from people who love the Holy Half so much and are really willing to keep it as a donation even though we couldn’t provide a race this year. Especially in light of everything that’s happening right now, to see the way that the Notre Dame community comes together was really beautiful to see.”

In the same email inviting those registered to donate, Budo suggested participants still run their own 13.1-mile race April 4, the scheduled Holy Half date.

Glenn has run seven half marathons in her life, but this year would have been her first time running the Holy Half. Almost the whole Saint Mary’s cross country team registered and trained for the race together, but Glenn plans on running the distance alone Saturday. She’s also considering running the full marathon she was scheduled to run later this year.

“I just figured, why not? I’m still training for the marathon even though that was cancelled, so the distance itself isn’t too crazy for me,” Glenn said about her decision. “I think it’s kind of nice just to maintain some sense of like solidarity and normalcy. Even if you’re not all together, you know that there’s been a lot of people that have been working for this and you’d all be doing it together if this wasn’t the situation. So there’s something comforting about that.”

Though she was aiming to set a personal record of 1:30 on the flat Holy Half course, Glenn said she won’t hold herself to the same standards when she runs her own race through the hilly streets of downtown Atlanta.

“I would just do it more for the experience, not the time,” she said. “It would be a good story.”

Glenn said she sympathizes with first-time half marathon runners who will miss their chance to run the Holy Half this year, but encourages them to continue to push forward.

“I’ve run a lot of halves in my life so far, so I was more bummed for people that this was going to be their first one,” she said. “I know what that feels like to train for something that you’ve never done before, and it’s such a big feat to get through that. It’s definitely tough. I think they shouldn’t discount all that they did though, even if they don’t get to have the race day.”

Despite being such an individual sport, running manages to bring people together in community in an indescribable way, Glenn said.

“I think it’s just working towards a goal and then finishing it and realizing that you’re capable of pretty much anything — it’s really addicting once you get into it,” she said. “And seeing other people do the same thing … you’re happy for yourself and you’re happy for everyone around you and it’s super uplifting.”

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