It’s an indication of what my 2016 was like that I’m publishing my year of running wrap up post almost two weeks into the new year. 2016 was a tumultuous year for me and my running reflected that.
I’ve written before about how running is like life…and if there’s one running experience that really defines my 2016 for me, it’s the Vermont City Marathon. I put so much into the training for that race. I ran through snow, ice, wind, miles and miles of heavy, depressing rain. I woke up early to get my long runs done. I squeezed in tempo runs and speedwork before cooking dinner at night. I found hills and I forced myself to get better at running them.
After all that preparation, the race day itself turned out to be the opposite conditions of most of my training. Brutally hot, ridiculously humid and it soon became clear, was going to be the worst race of my life. In fact, I wasn’t even able to finish when a black flag was issued and runners were shuttled off the course. Nearly 21 miles I slogged through that day and I never did get to the finish line.
Regardless of the outcome, I have so many wonderful memories from training. It was a tough training cycle for me. I started out certain I would improve quickly and get to the point where I’d be confident of attempting a PR. But the slow never seemed to wear off completely. The hills didn’t get remarkably easier. But the lake….the views of the lake.
Sunsets and midday. Choppy, grey water, or swathes of sunshiny blue. The wind so loud on the dirt path alongside the water that it drowned out any attempt to listen to music or podcasts on one looong run.
And the cross country ski trails, repurposed as running paths for my shorter runs. From covered in snow and ice and listening to my spikes crack the ground with every footfall, to seeing and hearing the land come alive in the spring as I ran past farms and a field of corn. Those were some meditative, lovely moments in what seemed like a long, hard grind to what I thought would be my third marathon.
And when it was over, having run (‘raced’ is too strong a verb for it) less distance than my longest training run, I was kind of done as well. A week later I ran a half marathon in the rain, caring nothing about my time, just enjoying the scenery and talking to fellow racers and the knowledge that I would make it to this finish line, at least. And after that race? I stopped caring about pace and distance and training for anything in particular. When I wanted to run, I just did. And I enjoyed even more the lake and the sunshine, taking the stroller out nearly every day in the summer and shading my little one while he slept and I pushed. And I enjoyed the alone time and the thick greenery of those summer paths down by the farms. I didn’t even look for any races in the area. I had no interest in racing this year.
In September I drove to Syracuse to take a certification course to become an RRCA running coach. For two full days I was immersed in running culture and recalling everything I learned along the way of making a career out of fitness and health. I met and talked with fellow runners, traded race stories and mental techniques and dream runs we’d had. I enjoyed every moment of it. It felt good to be reminded of how transformative running can be, how being a runner is more about identity and personality and drive than just what you like to do to stay in shape.
And then as the fall faded and the days got shorter, I fell into a routine of going to the gym after school drop off and using a treadmill for sprints before lifting heavy weights and swinging kettlebells. I’d forgotten how much I loved strength training and I noticed when I got outside for a run how the sprints and the weights made the hills a little easier each time. I remembered how I love the intense focus on form when there’s a heavy barbell on your shoulders and you’re squatting as low as you can. I had forgotten how empowering it is to attempt to lift a weight one last time and have your muscles just refuse to work, knowing you’ve given it all your energy and strength. I remembered how I love the sweat and the exhaustion and the feeling the day after (and the day after that) of breaking down and building up your muscles.
I found the picture above as I was reading back on my running posts from the year. It made me stop when I saw it. This – this is what was missing from my running this year. I felt like I was going through the motions much of the time and not running with passion, or not running toward a passionate goal. So this is my goal for this new year, for running, for health, for life in general. Do it with passion. Chase what I want and what I love. Don’t do something or work for anything I know in my heart I’m not passionate about. Maybe my year of running post for 2017 will end up with many races, or maybe hardly any at all. But I know that the running I do this year will be done with passion and love of the run. There will be terrible runs and long hard slogs too. But I’ll be running with the intent of bringing more passion and joy into my life and those hard moments will be worth it.
Run with passion…Live with passion. My 2017.