I talked with a friend the night before he ran Across the Years 100-miler. The race consists of a one-mile loop that he would need to run 100 times in order to finish. I couldn’t comprehend the task—not as much for the physical demands (we all know how difficult it is to run 100 miles on any course)—but for the mental challenge of running the same loop 100 times.
We strategized about the race and I suggested he try and talk to a different person on each lap. There were multiple races going on at once (from a 6-hour event to a 72-hour suffer fest) so there would be plenty of other runners on the course at all times.
“Get their names, find out where they’re from and learn a little about them,” I suggested. I figured it could help break up the monotony and provide some additional value outside of his goal to win the race. “Just maybe,” I said, “you’ll go home with more than a buckle, you’ll go home having made some new friends.”
I don’t know how many people he talked to during the race, but I do know that right now, running a one-mile loop 100 times doesn’t seem as crazy to me as it did this winter. With what’s going on in the world and our inability to get close to people, I’d welcome the opportunity to spend an entire day conversing with fellow runners. A high-five or two wouldn’t be so bad either.
I probably won’t ever run Across the Years or any race with a similar format. I prefer trying to get from point A to point B as fast as I can. But I think there’s something to be said about breaking down each mile with a different objective—something more than just covering the distance. Hopefully soon, that goal could once again be to meet new people and learn their stories. But right now, instead, we could spend a few moments each mile focusing on something we’re grateful for.
As the late John Prine wrote in “Souvenirs,” one of my favorite songs, “Memories, they can’t be boughten, they can’t be won at carnivals for free. Well it took me years to get those souvenirs, and I don’t know how they slipped away from me…”
Many of us have spent countless hours training for races in order to earn the memories of accomplishment that come with achieving our running goals. Now is a great time to reflect back on those great memories and be grateful for all the little things we often take for granted. Don’t let them slip away just because we aren’t currently racing.
Below are some (running) things that I’m grateful for that I’ve thought about recently on my runs.
- Feeling better at 40 (I just celebrated the BIG 4-0 this week) than I did at 30 before I started running
- Meeting many new friends that I never would have met without running
- Running with my wife in Romania and helping her train for her first ultra
- The post-race pizza, beers and live bluegrass at Rainshadow Running events
- Sitting in my warm car after completing a long run in winter that I had been dreading
- Hanging out after a race and becoming friends with people I just competed against
- The last mile of any ultra when I know I’m going to finish
- Walking around the track in Sylacauga, Alabama with my mother who stayed up all night to help me finish my first 100-mile race
- Moving from the Florida Keys to Oregon and discovering trail running in the Pacific Northwest
- Volunteering (for the first time) at the Gorge Waterfalls 100K and watching the headlamps of runners race against the clock in the final seconds
- Pushing my son in his jogging stroller across the finish line at the Miwok 100K
- Having my dad and friends at the finish line of the Waldo 100K and breaking down in tears after accomplishing something I never thought possible
- Transitioning from a person who couldn’t run a mile to an ultrarunner
- Writing about running and having the opportunity to try and inspire others
- Post-run beers with friends. Just sitting in chairs and at a trailhead and enjoying life. Time stands still after a good run with friends.
What running-related things are you grateful for? What are your favorite memories? Please share in the comments below.