Back in January, when the “Year in Review” posts pop up all over the internet, I started thinking about last year. It had felt like an off year. My running was generally iffy. Although I had a strong finish in the Griffith Park Trail Marathon, I DNF’d the Leona Divide 50k. I ran a 5k in June, but beyond that, hadn’t run a single race. I had attempted to train for 2 or 3, but every training plan ended up half-written, and my runs tapered off to 1 or 2 per week. When I went out for long runs, I usually cut them short by 4 or 5 miles and turned around early. Weight workouts went undone.
Riddle me this. Say you have a best friend, whose father died early in the year. Say that she started feeling disinterested in running after that, not completing workouts, didn’t feel like training for anything. Would you say:
“That sounds like it really sucks. You know, it sounds like maybe you just need to be kind to yourself and take a little time off. Want to go get coffee and chat?”
“Shut up and suck it up. God, you’re such a whiner.”
To be clear, I am both the friend and the responder in this little scenario. And I did not choose the nice response. I spent a year beating myself up for not feeling more “into” running and fitness, and never really thought that maybe my response to a traumatic experience wasn’t going to be “go run a 100 miler” but instead would be “take a little time to chill out and see what happens.”
My dad died in late February of last year. Three weeks after he died, I spoke at his memorial service. Then the next weekend, I ran a marathon. Two weeks after that, I DNF’d my first 50k attempt. I thought my response the rest of the year meant I was just a failure, but I think it meant that I am just a human.
I’ve spent enough time around runners now, both in “real life” and on their blogs, to realize that everyone’s running is affected by their life. Sometimes it means you have a really good year. Sometimes it means that you have a year where you need to take a little down time and gear up for the next one. But the best runners, the ones who truly enjoy the sport and seem to have longevity in it, seem to be the ones who can recognize which type of year they’re in and roll with the punches. They have patience.
It’s shaping up to be a better year. I feel like running again. I feel like getting into the gym. I’m training for a 50k in October. But most of all, I feel like I can more clearly see that sometimes you can’t muscle through and pull off an incredible year. Sometimes you need to let the year be what it wants to be, and set yourself up for the next one.