Each week we interview members of our community to learn how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted their lives, and how they are adapting in these challenging times. Our quarantine interviewees are healthcare workers, small business owners, students, parents, teachers, and, of course, runners. We hope that by sharing the stories of our neighbors we can find inspiration, solidarity, and connection as a community in the coming weeks and months. 

This week we catch up with Emily Walters. Emily is a mom, a poet, an avid skier, a lover of food, and is currently racking up vert running and hiking on the trails all around Missoula. Read on to learn how she is finding joy and spreading positivity in our community during these uncertain times. Also, as a major bonus, Emily shares some of her poetry with us. Please enjoy!

Emily with her husband, Jeff and their daughter, Nina


First off, how long have you lived in Missoula?

I’ve lived in Missoula for 12 years.

Are you training for an upcoming race? If so, has it been canceled or postponed? If so, have you set any new goals?

Yes, I have been training for the Bighorn 50k which was recently cancelled. I have a spread sheet (my first year keeping track) of vertical gain, so I’ll focus on vert goals. I’ll keep running but add in more biking too.

What are you doing to maintain motivation and stay active right now?

Having an active 3 1/2 year old is the best kind of trainer, there aren’t any off days with that kind of energy, it is raw motivation. Since the Bighorn was going to be in June, I needed to build a solid base so I have been mostly running. A lot of zone one hikes with our daughter, with moments of sprints she likes to throw in.

How are you investing in your mental health right now?

I haven’t ever really thought of myself as a runner, as much as someone who really values the meditative quality running longer distances can offer. I’ve valued running as an act of mental health even more so lately. Sure, it’s exercise, but really it’s a daily outlet for sustained quiet. It’s also been an activity that feels “normal” while so much around us feels abnormal. Out running, it’s an opportunity to connect with yourself, the mountains, wildflowers, changes in light and check in with your internal barometer.

Are there any silver linings or positive moments you have experienced in the last couple of weeks you would like to share?

Yes, I’ve had a “COVID-running buddy” Sarah Raz, who has been a great friend and running companion for years, but especially during the past few months. We’ve crossed this valley up and down in snow, sleet, sun, sadness and joy. Our weekly runs together have been so meaningful to me right now, a rare opportunity to run hard together, we cheer each other on, shout out, “nice work blondie” and laugh. Running can be a lot of hours clocked alone, but with Sarah, we push each other and hold each other up even when we cannot hug or high-five.

Where are you finding inspiration right now? (books, music, podcasts, people, etc.)

Reading Station Eleven, listening to On Being’s poetry podcasts, cooking, writing, drawing wildflowers and rainbows with our daughter, working in the garden, mowing the yard. I really find inspiration being outside.

How are you connecting with others during quarantine and social distancing?

I’m a funny kind of introvert in that I thought I would thrive in social isolation, but turns out, I really miss interacting with people, “live”. Sure, it’s great to have technology to connect, but it feels clumsy for organic conversation. I really miss random conversations, comedic quips said for lightness and ease.

Do you have a favorite place to run in Missoula?

The North Hills have become my favorite because I can run from our house. But nothing beats a great loop up Jumbo and Sentinel or variation on the loop theme.

What does the Missoula running community mean to you in a time like this?

Missoula now more than ever feels like a place where people cheer each other on even if they don’t really know you. You could be out and about running at dawn and you’ll see someone you might just slightly know zoom by and you both smile. Exchange that joy in seeing someone do what they love to do too. Running feels like a place of normalcy now more than ever, Missoula feels like it’s still cheering. At least the wildflowers are cheering for sure.

Anything you would like to say to our community during this moment?

Keep saying hi, keep smiling, keep being smart while out and about on the trails. Sure, we have to be six feet apart, but nothing means more to a person than a gesture of positivity. You never know what that person might be processing, give them a sense of being seen.

You recently participated in a challenge in April, which is National Poetry Month, to write a sonnet a day. That’s so cool. Would you be open to sharing one with us?

Yes, I didn’t ever think I’d write about running, but I write a lot while I am running. I call my longer days, rough drafts, because it’s where I have more time to really “write” while I run.

Above The Life I Live In

People say you should run your own race,
but I haven’t been able to figure out a strategy
for myself other than running for hours outside,
high above the life I live in. Crest along rocks,
ravines and spend most of my day with ravens
in the alpine, moments when I forget I have feet,
just the simple moment of breath meeting breath
and me as a body between. I never feel like a failure
when I move my body up a mountain, never ask
myself what have I done with my one beautiful day
given. Nor ask what have I given back to this world
when I am quiet with it. I’ve asked clouds the hardest
of questions, fully knowing they didn’t need to answer

back. Know they trust me. And with them, I’m enough.

A big thank you to Emily for sharing her poetry and stories with us! If you think this interview would add value to someone in your life, please consider forwarding this email to them.

Also, if you are enjoying the Quarantine Q&A series, or have a question you would like us to ask our interviewees, let us know! Email Mike@runnersedgemt.com.

This edition of the Quarantine Q&A is brought to you by Sapphire Physical Therapy. Thank you Sapphire for supporting and celebrating these community stories!