As most of you know, I had bone spur removal and Achilles’ reconstruction in late December, to repair damage from years of running. It’s a long and painful recovery, but it really put everything into perspective – especially today. Sorry, this is lengthy. I haven't "journaled" or "blogged" for a while. I spent most of the winter bitching about my foot or feeling sorry for myself.
Today, I was at Deer Creek Canyon and a little boy, most likely six or seven years old, was with what appeared to be his grandparents. They were hiking the trails as I was running up behind them. When I got close, I announced myself by saying “on your left,” and like clockwork, they moved to the side. As I was passing, the boy asked, “Are you running the whole trail?” Boldly, but maybe not confidently, I said that I was. The boy then asked, “Are you old?” I could hear the grandparents moan in disbelief, but to humor the boy, I said, “Yes, I am… but I’m happy!”
For the next six miles, I began to think about what made me happy, and clearly, the biggest reason was that I WAS running because I COULD run.
Looking back over the past 16 months, I began to analyze my “running mood.” 2017 was a fairly productive year for me. I entered 13 races – everything from 5k to 5 mile, to marathons and even a couple of ultra-marathons. Of those 13 races, I was on the podium nine times, with either overall placements or age group top three. I won two RRCA State Championships (Colorado and Wyoming) in the marathon distance, ran a 3:18:24 for fourth place overall in the Casper Marathon, ran three marathons in seven days (Casper, South Park and Revel – June 4th, 10th , and 11th) and managed to run the entire Colorado Trail in 13 days. I finished out the year, having run five marathons and two ultras, with two Boston Qualifying times (BQ’s).
All of these accomplishments, yet there wasn’t a lot of joy. I should have been satisfied and happy, especially since most of these were done after I turned 59 years old. But, it was never enough – I wanted to be faster, better, stronger. For everything that I had done, I wasn’t content. I know I’m way past my prime, but the drive to get better always lingers, always haunts me, like a shadow trying to get in front of me, rather than staying behind me.
A year ago, an eight minute mile seemed slow – this year, a ten minute mile seems fast. Last year, I had two Boston Qualifiers, and this year, I might not have any. Last year, I was on the podium 80% of the time, and this year I’ve entered exactly one race, and finished at the back of the pack. Last year, I was averaging about 350 miles per month and this year I’m around 100 miles total, for the first FIVE months of the year. Last year, I climbed nearly 500,000 vertical feet and this year, I’m below 10,000’. Last year, I tried too hard to reinvent, recycle or somehow become a better version of me. This year, I’m content with who I am.
Last year, I was moving too fast to enjoy nature. This year, I’m stopping to take pictures every chance I get.
When I told this little boy, “Yes, I am (old)… but I’m happy,” I meant it. For the first time in years, despite the lingering pain (I’m icing as I’m typing this), I’m happy because I CAN run. Pace and distance simply aren’t important anymore. Oh, I do have goals – I already signed up for four fall marathons and ultras, but I’m going to enjoy them this time around!
Today, I became a happy runner, thanks to a simple question from a little boy. I challenge all of you to “find your happy.” Remember: “You don’t have to be THE best - you have to be YOUR best.”