Do I want to train for another ultramarathon? Is it worth it? Are there better things I could be doing with my time?
These are questions I’ve wrestled with lately.
Back in 2020, in the heart of the pandemic, I ran a lot. It was one of the few things we could all do. Heading out for a long run was a great way to clear my mind, and I could escape to a place free of worry while doing what I enjoy. But I missed racing, and I missed the ultrarunning community.
In 2021, I jumped at the chance to get back to racing and ran three ultras plus the Boston Marathon. I loved seeing the crowds back out cheering on the runners at Boston. It was incredible to re-engage with volunteers offering their support at ultra aid stations, and it was great to suffer through miles once again with strangers who became instant friends.
But 2022 has felt a bit different. My son recently started kindergarten and we spent much of the summer traveling and seeing family. I prioritized camping trips over long runs on the weekends. We bought an old canoe and I’ve been spending as much time researching lakes and streams as I have on running routes. I didn’t race this summer.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up running. I’m still planning to attempt a fall 100k, but I’m just finding it more mentally challenging to train than in the past. The running and life balance has been harder to achieve.
Wildfires don’t help. Running isn’t important compared to the human costs of these fires. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think a little about the trails that are burning—like the ones near Waldo Lake in Oregon and along the Western States 100 course. I wonder what these races will look like in the future.
As I type, the air quality in my hometown is terrible. This is supposed to be my peak training week, but I can’t run outside. The thought of training exclusively on a treadmill is not very appealing. Once again, I ask the question, “Is it worth it?”
Often, I ramble to find answers. Most of the time it’s annoying my wife while she’s trying to sleep. But right now, it’s at the keyboard of my laptop.
And the more I type, the more I know the answer is: yes, it is worth it.
Ultrarunning has changed my life for the better. It has introduced me to many amazing people and made me a better father, husband and all-around human by giving me energy and confidence that I didn’t have before I became a runner. And I don’t want to give that up.
But I understand that to keep running ultras my training won’t be like it was before. I don’t have as much time to run, and I don’t have the desire to sacrifice family fun weekends to go out and do long runs. I know that because of this my results will likely suffer. My goals will need to be adjusted. My times will be slower. I may need to walk a hill I used to be able to run, and that is okay.
I can still train by running consistently (albeit shorter distances) when I have time, focusing on strength and mobility throughout the day and doing a long run once every two or three weeks, instead of every weekend.
Will it be enough? Probably not for the results I’d like, but enough to enjoy the experience. It’s not too much where I need to sacrifice the other things I want to do—like teaching my son how to paddle the canoe or cast his new fishing rod.
Soon enough, maybe my son can join on some runs or longer hikes. And that can be a part of my training. Maybe one day, he’ll be able to help my wife crew at an aid station or even pace me for a few miles. But right now, he has more important things to do like playing with toy dinosaurs. I don’t think he’ll mind if his father sneaks out every now and then to go do what he loves to do too.