The last weekend in March was supposed to be the Go! St. Louis Marathon & Family Fitness Weekend. Like so many events, it was cancelled due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop one local high-schooler from lacing up his running shoes. Avi Adler, a senior at Yeshivat Kadimah High School in University City, mapped a route and completed the more than 26 miles by himself. “I’m really inspired by my dad, who has run 13 New York City marathons,” he says. “My sister and I like to joke that it’s in our blood.”
After running a Go! St. Louis half marathon in October, Adler decided he was ready to tackle his first full race. He set his sights on this spring’s race and started training. But just weeks before the event, the new coronavirus crisis hit the U.S., and the race was called off. Adler’s disappointment at the cancellation quickly turned into determination. “I had it in my mind that I was going to run a marathon, and I didn’t want the virus to stop me,” he says. “It felt important to maintain my goals in these crazy times.”
The original plan was to follow the Go! St. Louis route, but Adler realized it would be smarter to create his own centered around his home. He included his favorite stretch of Clayton Road to run. “It’s hilly, so that makes it fun and challenging,” he says. “The marathon would have started in Forest Park, so as a testament to the original path, I also ran there.”
The mid-March day Adler had selected for his run turned out to be one of the harshest of the month. The forecast included rain, sleet and even snow. “When I woke up, I initially thought I might push it off,” he recalls. “Then I started thinking that if it was the actual marathon day, the weather wouldn’t have stopped me. In the spirit of that, I decided to run. As I kept going, I realized that a lot of people are facing much harder challenges than I am. A little rain or snow shouldn’t stop me.”
Adler’s family fully supported him when he undertook the challenge. “One of my favorite things is that my mom and sister followed me in the car, cheering me on and handing me water,” he says. “My sister made signs that she stuck out the window. It was really special. My dad also made a finish line for me to cross when I arrived back at my house.” Adler crossed that line after 3 and a half hours, making his average time around 8 minutes per mile.
As for future marathons, Adler, who will attend Columbia University in the fall, says they are definitely in the cards. “But I’m hoping for a regular race and sunshine,” he adds.