Have I peaked yet? Is the best yet to come? I sit here and think about my own personal running journey to this point and what is yet to come and I can’t help but wonder where on the running continuum I sit at age 32.
It seems like just yesterday I was 16 and running in my first ever cross country race, a varsity 5K in Watertown. For some reason we (SF Washington) traveled to Watertown for two different meets at entirely different courses – not that I minded. But that wasn’t yesterday at it might feel, that was 15+ years ago – another 15 years from now and I’ll be 47 years old. Time indeed marches on – and not just on the official race clock!
This past race season was a busy one. Maybe too busy. In a span of five months from June through October I ran five marathons - including my first trail marathon (I count Deadwood and Crazy Horse as road races even though it is technically a trail) – and my first two ultras (the Black Hills 50-miler & the Newton Hills 30K. Needless to say that by the time fall weather crept into the air my legs were officially dead and tired.
Most of November was spent taking a break from any sort of structured training. That is easier said than done when you feel your hard-earned fitness sinking faster than the Titanic after the dance band’s final song. It was worth the break though, as I felt refreshed and reinvigorated for the daily grind of serious training to begin once December rolled around. Thank goodness, as the holiday season would be impossible to bear without some sort of consistent training as a means to stay sane amid the stress – and also as a futile attempt to burn off 10% of the extra calories consumed at Christmas parties and family gatherings.
The New Year is a whole new challenge. We are already to the point where our resolutions seem like a questionable idea and the willpower to abide by them fades like a 4:45 PM winter sunset into the horizon on a too cold and too short day.
Do you have big plans and confident dreams of the coming spring and summer? It is time to start thinking about what races you want to compete in and what your specific goals might be. It is also time to start working to make those goals a reality! We are in that mid-winter period where if you wait for perfect conditions – the “right time” – you will never even get out the door and will always find a reason not to hit the local fitness center.
It might take all the willpower you can muster but you HAVE to get out that door and put in a few miles. It is said that summer bodies are made in the winter. Well spring and summer PR’s are made on cold and windy days in January. Whether on the bike trail, a gravel road, the treadmill in your basement, or a tight indoor track, be a tough Midwestern runner and put a training plan together (or hire a coach) and have the courage and discipline to follow it.
You might have a few days where you fall off the wagon and skip your run and eat too much pizza instead. We’ve all been there. Climb back on and take to the modest task of finding joy in a simple run. No matter what it looks like outside and how cold that wind cuts through your hoodie, spring will come and the warm & sunny longer days will be here. Be ready when they arrive!
Chris Riley is a teacher, cross country coach and lifelong runner in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Watch for periodic guest blog posts from Chris and the west river running experience on Blog 605