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Pandemic Firsts: A Runner Hits The Road (Race) Again

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The pandemic, among many things, put on hold marathons and road races. Runners had to go solo, sometimes wearing masks and avoiding each other on the road. But today, for our series on Pandemic Firsts, runners have returned to the largest 10K race in the world.

LAURA SCHOLZ: I'm Laura Scholz, and I live in Atlanta, Ga. I'm a freelance writer and Pilates teacher. I've been running consistently for over 20 years, and I would say long distance I've been doing since 2008 - so marathon, half marathon for about 12, 13 years.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Scholz said that running gave her peace of mind.

SCHOLZ: I love running because - and especially in the past year, it's been my time to myself. It's been the time when I can clear my head. I come up with ideas. I get to be in nature. And I think it's really something that I look forward to every day that's had a positive impact on my mental health.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She said the pandemic gave her an opportunity to hone her favorite activity.

SCHOLZ: For me, I found that really quiet period in late March and April to be, while a very scary and anxious time as far as the state of the world, to be a really great time to invest in running because I wasn't rushing from one thing to the next or traveling. And it really ended up reinforcing my love of running and being my - really my only time to escape the house.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Scholz says that running during the pandemic also made her reconsider her priorities.

SCHOLZ: It really clicked everything into place and made me realize that so many of the things that I worried about, whether it was my time finishing or what race I was going to do next - none of that was as important as sort of, one, being healthy enough to do that - I think that gave me some perspective - and also just being able to be in community and see other human beings and see your friends.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One race that was canceled last year and that she was excited to go back to was the Peachtree Road Race. It was a 10K that treks through the heart of Atlanta and that Scholz has been running since 2001. And on the morning of July 3...

SCHOLZ: It's about 5:30, and I'm making my way to the start line. And I met this volunteer, so tell me your name.

PAIGE: Paige (ph).

SCHOLZ: Paige. And, Paige, how long have you been volunteering with the Peachtree?

PAIGE: Eight years.

SCHOLZ: Eight years?

PAIGE: Yeah.

SCHOLZ: And what do you love about Peachtree?

PAIGE: The energy. It's just so much fun. Everybody's excited. The flag and the planes flying over, it's just - it's - there's nothing like it.

SCHOLZ: It's about 6:15, and I am walking through the start waves...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Water for you...

SCHOLZ: ...Which you can hear...

So I just finished. I'm in Piedmont Park. I ran a 53:43, which was definitely not the time I was hoping for, but it still felt pretty strong. So yeah - trying to catch my breath here a little bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Scholz later got to reflect on how it felt to run the race.

SCHOLZ: I will say it was a bit different. Like, it was nice because I got there and thought, wow, there's hardly anybody here. And there was no traffic, and there's so much space. But then when you're running a race and when you're used to being - the crowd being so wild and having so many people around you sort of carry you through the hard parts, it definitely felt different than before times.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And while it felt good to be back, Scholz said she's definitely a little rusty.

SCHOLZ: My coach just told me I need to do more races to get used to doing it again because it's always a little shock to the system to get back out there when you - and I think this is the longest break I've had from racing since I started racing. And I hadn't thought about that before.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Laura Scholz of Atlanta, Ga.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.