Gay runner talks about her career ending due to coronavirus shutdown

Outsports is asking LGBTQ people in sports how they are impacted by the coronavirus crisis and its effects on all aspects of daily life. Today: Pennsylvania college runner Susie Poore. She identifies as a lesbian.

I ran my last race as a Lehigh University Mountain Hawk about three weeks ago.

The funny and sad part is that I had absolutely no idea at the time. I expected that I’d be spiking up and putting on my brown and white uniform just like before. I’d go from running 25 laps indoors to 25 laps outdoors, and I’d look forward to every lap all the same.

I went home for spring break thinking I’d be back in just a week, but I was wrong. It was a Thursday when the news broke. I sat on the couch in my living room and stared into space for 15 minutes after I saw the tweet announcing that the Patriot League had canceled all spring athletics.

Within the same day, Lehigh canceled classes for the rest of the semester and mandated the switch to remote learning. Just like that, the two biggest anchors of my life were ripped out from under my feet. I’m working on finding the ground again.

The knowledge that I can still wake up every morning and go for a run, even during these unprecedented times, is what’s helping me cope. While my entire identity doesn’t reside in my sport, I wouldn’t be who I am today had I never found distance running.

Running has shaped my relationships, my livelihood, and my coming out story. I don’t know if or when I would have come out had my teammate not encouraged me to take a leap with him through Outsports. I’m so incredibly grateful for everything this sport has brought me, especially during my time at Lehigh.

I grew and changed more than I ever thought possible during these past few years. The freshman who wrote that article is an immensely different person than the young woman writing this reflection today, but I’ll always proudly be the gay runner who wears a rainbow bracelet and colorful socks as a sign of visibility and nod to solidarity.

Though my Lehigh career came to an abrupt end, I’m trying to use this time to reconnect with my love for running. It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve gone for a run that wasn’t part of an organized sports team. I forgot what it was like to choose my own mileage, change up my running routes or take a day off because cooking breakfast with my family feels more important.

I’ll admit the lack of structure felt odd at first. It was hard to not question “why am I doing this?” during my first few miles. I had to remind myself it’s because I love to run. So even though the world feels like it’s been turned on its head, it’s reassuring to at least have that as a constant. I’m also incredibly fortunate to be able to continue my running career at New York University next year while I’m pursuing a masters in Publishing.

Even though I can still hold on to some aspects of running, there’s no reconciling the loss of the rest of my last year at Lehigh.

I’m still processing all the goodbyes I never got to say, all the “bucket list” things my roommates and I never checked off, and all the opportunities I never got to pursue in my degree programs. There’s really no other way to describe it than just this immense feeling of mourning.

Similar to my last race at Lehigh, it’s hard knowing I had all these “lasts” without realizing it. Who knows if or when I’ll ever been in the same place as all these people again?

I thought that remote learning would add a shred of normalcy to the situation, but it’s actually done the opposite. As an English and Political Science double major, my classes thrive on discussion and in person communication. I’m used to sitting around seminar tables and passing marked-up copies of creative writing stories to their respective authors.

I’m used to making it my mission to find and point out queer undertones or subtext in any and every piece of literature that I can and riffing off my classmates when they have similar ideas.

I’m used to the sense of community that’s built through studying what I care about with other people who hold the same passion. It’s next to impossible to recreate that through a computer screen, but we’re trying.

Still, it’s difficult to not feel isolated at times. It’s also difficult knowing that this is how my undergrad experience is going to end. I always imagined myself clad in a brown cap and gown and sweating it out in the middle of our football stadium with my best friend seated by my side. We’d spend the whole four-hour ceremony making jokes and trying not to perish under the 90 degree heat, and I’d try not to blush when my family made a ruckus over me getting my diploma. That was supposed to be my last day at Lehigh, yet here we are.

Everyone always says your college years are over before you know it. I just wish I could’ve seen this end coming.

Susie Poore is from Windham, N.H., and a member of Lehigh University’s graduating class of 2020. She’s an English (with a concentration in Creative Writing) and Political Science double major and a long-distance runner for the women’s cross-country and track and field team. This fall, she’ll begin a two-year master’s in Publishing program at NYU and continue her running career by joining the NYU Violets. She hopes to become an editor and advocate for increased queer narratives in publishing. She can be reached on Twitter (@susiepoore17), email ([email protected]) or Instagram (@susie.poore).

Read Susie’s coming out story.

If you want to share how the coronavirus is affecting your life, please email Jim Buzinski ([email protected])


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