New Year’s resolutions are not my thing. I’ve made them over the years, but like most people, they are long forgotten after two weeks. Resolutions like losing weight, lead to failure when there’s no specific plan to go along with the goal. Instead of making a specific plan as to how I might change my diet or set up an exercise program to meet those goals, they’ve all ended miserably. So I’ve long since given up on making resolutions.
At the beginning of the year, I was listening to an Ultra Stories podcast with Sherpa John Lacroix and found myself incredibly challenged. It wasn’t about setting a resolution, but taking a whole new look at the year 2019 from a totally different perspective. I’m a runner, and more specifically an ultra distance runner. Over the last five years, most of my goals have focused on races I’d like to run or distances I’d like to complete. As a runner, it would be very easy for me to focus my whole life on running, and it can become all-consuming. It can be a very selfish and narcissistic sport where you draw a lot of attention to yourself and your accomplishments, while spending a lot of hours doing it. But running isn’t my whole identity or how I define myself. I’m so much more than that.
Listening to Sherpa John pose a couple of questions caused me to think a little harder and dive into it a little deeper. He got my attention with the question: Would you still run if there was no Strava to see what you’ve done and no likes on social media? That’s easy for me! Absolutely! I love the woods, the trails, and the freedom of being outdoors and exploring the mountains. For me, racing brings the extra challenge of a course and being able to do a long run with support along the way. Finishing a difficult race leaves me with a huge sense of accomplishment of being able to work through issues and keep my focus on the journey to the end.
The more I thought about this question, I began to think about the role of social media. We post about our races and accomplishments on social media, sharing pictures and looking for responses. For some people, no run seems complete if they don’t post it to Facebook or Instagram. Am I one of those people? Could I be a little too addicted to following every race, elite athletes and others on social media? The answer is probably going to sting a little bit. In running, we sometimes say we had to dig deep. We might need to dig a little deep here, too.
Before Sherpa John finished chewing me up and spitting me out, so to speak, he offered up a challenge to his listeners. Okay, you’ve got me listening, let’s hear this challenge: List 3 ways you can elevate your running experience in 2019 that have nothing to do with the following: time, distance, elevation, race, external validation or how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop! Then create a challenge for yourself that will help you obtain your goals. Wow, you might need to re-read that and let it sink in for a while. So as I accepted the challenge John put in front of me, it wasn’t hard to come up with a list of things I’d like to focus on in 2019.
- 1. Focus on stretching and rolling to avoid injury, putting myself in a better place for running long-term. I’m going to be 55 years-old in a few months, and it’s often the accomplishments of the Grand Masters-level runners that inspire me more than anything. Seeing the video of 70 year-old Gunhild Swanson’s epic finish at Western States in 2015 inspired me to be running for years to come. I realized I could be in the sport for more than just a few years. In order to do that, I’m finding I need to take care of my body and be very intentional about it. I’m going to challenge myself to stretch and roll several times each week, especially following races or long runs
- Plan an adventure run with friends this year, not just a race. I’ve run the Grand Canyon R2R2R and I count that experience as one of my favorite things I’ve done as an ultra runner. Being an ultra runner gives me the ability to see things that I may never be able to see any other way. My legs have allowed me to experience incredible views. So I’d like to plan an adventure that is not a race. There are so many trails I’ve never run on, mountains I’ve never climbed, and views I haven’t seen. I want to enjoy the beauty of creation and embrace the experience by enjoying it with friends, all without the pressure of a race. My challenge is to pick that adventure, plan it, and do it.
- Volunteer more. Not just at races, but also do trail maintenance work. I value our trails and the freedom we have to use them to run and hike. I want to make every effort to give back. I’d like to learn how to be an advocate for saving our trails, and learn how to preserve and care for them. I’m challenging myself to take a class to be certified in trail maintenance work and to volunteer more at races. For every race I run, I will volunteer at another race.
- Help others more. Ultra running sometimes takes many people to help you to complete your goals. It’s a community that helps one another. I love the friends I’ve made and the time I share with them on the trails. I enjoy pacers in my races, not because I can’t finish without their help but because I truly enjoy being with them, and enjoy the conversation and experience. I want to spend more time helping others by crewing, pacing or just encouraging them. I want to focus on others so I can share things I’ve learned and help someone else in some small way. I’m challenging myself to seek out people that might be in need of crew or pacing help.
- Run more without a watch. Focus more on just finding my happy place on the trails and in the mountains, not caring about the distance or elevation, or uploading it to an app or spreadsheet. Spend some time off the social media grid, so to speak. I’m a numbers person, to some degree, and am always looking to see my distance or time. I’m going to challenge myself that once a week I will run without my watch. No Strava upload (sorry coach) and no data. Crickets. Off the grid at least once a week.
While that may have seemed like an easy list to compile, it’s going to be quite challenging to do. Essentially I want to focus more on others and less on myself. I want to enjoy the trails and give back what I can. I don’t want to be just different, I want to make a difference. It’s a tough challenge, Sherpa John, but I accept your challenge. I hope others will join in, as well. Dig deep.