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Finish lines

When I went out for football my junior year of high school, my least favorite activity during the two-a-day summer practice sessions was the chain run. The whole team would line up to jog and the person at the end of the line would have to sprint to the front to lead the line with each person at the end taking their turn.

This was usually done as a punishment for when someone goofed or mouthed off during practice and would go on for however long our coach felt was necessary depending on the severity of the infraction. Coach was a firm believer in group punishment.

Thinking back, it wasn’t so much the physical activity that made me dread the exercise so much, but rather that we never knew how long it could go on. It might be done after all 60 or so of us went through the line once, or it might last all afternoon.

Typically when you do anything like exercising or even just sitting in a board meeting, part of what makes it bearable is keeping track of how much closer you are to the end. You know that with every step you take you are inching closer to being done and being able to stop.

This weekend, athletes will be coming to Medford from all over to compete in the annual Pine Line Marathon. The rail trail is about as flat a course as you could ask for with the elevation change an easy to handle one foot per mile. If you ask any competitor, they will tell you that the first half of the race is always a climb and it is when you know you are on your way back that it becomes downhill all the way. With every stride you are closer to the finish line and you get excited as you pass familiar landmarks that you saw on your way out. Despite being exhausted and sore, when the finish line comes in sight you give it your all and hope you don’t collapse until after you have crossed the line.

I was thinking about this recently while at a meeting where people were talking about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyone has been asked to make sacrifices in the past year. At first it was doing what we could to flatten the curve by staying home. Events were canceled, postponed or modified to the point of being a shadow of what they had been in the past. Then it was masks and social distancing. Toward the end of each step people have chafed as rather than a finish line, we are told it will be longer still.

So, just like in that chain run with my high school football team, we take our turn and sprint ahead hoping that this time will be the last time and that we may rest soon.

No matter what your physical shape may be, there is only so far someone can go before they hit empty and just stop. In the case of COVID-19 there are many who have already reached that point. They are ready to be done and nothing will move them. For the rest of us, there needs to be a clear finish line.

The question of “What is victory” needs to answered. There are some who would take this to a ridiculous extreme and suggest victory occurs when COVID-19 is no more.

A better option is to set a point where anyone who wishes to be vaccinated has a chance to do so. Health experts suggest that may be achieved by June 1. Right now, there are still waiting lists as the amount of vaccines available are less than the demand.

The capacity for people to endure and be resilient in the face of adversity is in direct proportion to knowing that “this too will pass.” A finish line gives hope and a goal to work for.

An endless slog leads only to despair and people deciding they have nothing to lose if they just stop caring.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.