An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead.

Any runner with a shoebox full of medals knows that victory is sweetly remembered through the shiny keepsakes bestowed upon those of us lucky enough to cross the finish line. This year saw the rise of virtual races and perhaps the most epic challenge of all, the quarantine backyard ultra-marathon.

With no starting line-up or electric crowd atmosphere, lone runners took to their neighbourhoods. They covered hundreds of kilometres around suburban streets. A dedicated few racked up the miles back and forth with tiny laps inside the relative safety of their own homes. Covid-19 might have struck seemingly out of the blue, but for the runner who had 2020 goals in mind, the months of training for race preparation was not to go to waste.

Perhaps for the unconquerable few who trained with masks on, they will have earned a competitive advantage.

The running community have managed to build themselves a new absurd form of racing, which will likely go on to be a new tradition for the now well-connected global running “club”.

For those of us who felt isolated and left wondering how to fill the hours when the Covid-19 storm hit in March, we could be grateful that in some countries outside exercise was considered essential for physical and mental wellbeing. Although not all have been so lucky. Perhaps a collective thought should go out to the Australian runner in Beijing caught breaching strict quarantine

It goes without saying that a sense of normalcy will be welcomed with open arms in the world of running, and perhaps for the unconquerable few who trained with masks on they will have earned a competitive advantage. For them, any virtual race bling might be remembered even sweeter. Here’s mine.