What to do if coronavirus cancels your sporting dreams

Last month, 38,000 people from around the world were told they wouldn't be running in the Tokyo marathon. In early February, the Hong Kong marathon, which usually draws 70,000 people, was cancelled and this weekend's Nagoya City Marathon has been mothballed. All because of health and safety fears surrounding coronavirus. 

Who could blame the race organisers? China and Japan both have a growing number of confirmed cases of Covid‑19 [coronavirus] and deaths. 

Last week, Australian marathoner Sinead Diver admitted she was nervous and worried about the coronavirus at the Olympics in Tokyo. While the impact of the virus on sports events is being felt throughout the world, Australia's athletes, coaches and officials are all still working on the assumption that the Olympics will go ahead.

How to deal with setbacks 

Eight-time marathon runner Vincent Lam knows first-hand what it's like to have your marathon hopes dashed by external factors. 

Since receiving one of the lucky 26,370 lottery entries into the Tokyo Marathon in September 2019, Lam had been planning the trip and had been training for 15 weeks. 

He says the announcement came as a shock. "Although the reason made by the race organiser to cancel the Tokyo Marathon was understandable, I was quite disappointed. It came as a bit of a shock, especially with all the work I'd put in over the last few months," says Lam.

Don't dwell on the downside 

After the initial let-down, Lam decided not to dwell on the negatives and instead, focussed his attention on what was possible. 

"I'd completed my biggest and most ambitious training plan to date and I wasn't going to let all that go to waste," says Lam. "I decided to see if there were any events being held within a similar time frame closer to home and the Wangaratta Marathon came up," says Lam.

Lam's decision to enter a different race paid off. He ran his best marathon and came away with a 20-minute personal best. He says it's important to remember that while not being able to run the race you've trained for because of a cancellation or other setback like injury is extremely disheartening, it helps to put it into perspective. 

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Setbacks are common 

Running coach Nathan Fenton says it's more common for a setback of some kind to happen during training than to have the perfect preparation.

"I've experienced everything from sickness and injury to race cancellations and complete loss of motivation," admits Fenton. "One is no bigger than the other; they all interrupt preparation and can have negative consequences."  

Fenton knows many athletes who were planning to race at the Tokyo Marathon and says the let-down has been big for them, especially because the cancellation came to close the race day. 

His advice? Remain stoic about it.

Stay strong

"The work you've put in and the fitness you've built hasn't disappeared. All that work is valuable and you can still put yourself to the test; it just won't be in Tokyo this year."

Like Lam, Fenton encourages runners to take a step back from the situation and look at what they still have. 

"You have every right to be sad and/or angry, because there are financial as well as emotional implications to a race cancellation," says Fenton. "But remember that you still have the fitness, and now you have the time. If you missed a few key workouts in recent weeks this could be a blessing in disguise. You can add one more block and get those key workouts in. But most importantly, understand that you have options." 

How to adjust your plan 

Firstly, Fenton recommends runners should research other races happening soon.  

"Do you need to race a marathon, or would you be happy or maybe even better off racing a half marathon?" asks Fenton. "Find other races that may be of interest and then decide whether you have the mental resilience to continue training until that race.  

He says it's common for runners to feel fatigued towards the end of a lengthy training program and late cancellations don't help. 

"Late in the build period, many runners are simply exhausted and want to get the race over and done with. If this is the case either pick another race in the next few weeks or take a short rest and then get back into training," says Fenton.

The high of crossing the finish line inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. Whether you're a newbie to the running scene or a seasoned athlete, Laura brings the latest running trends and gear to readers across Australia. With a day job in the corporate world and a busy toddler, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to sharpen her mind and challenge her body.

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