52 of 52: The End?

Happy New Year!

I like to start my goal setting – well – whenever I’m feeling particularly un accomplished. On the one hand I think this makes a fair amount of sense. Set some new goals to give yourself a kick in the pants, right? On the other hand it can be easier to ride the momentum of success and set some new ones. (I think this is called a positive spiral. Catch me doing this at the end of the post.)

Well – which one is better? Spoiler – whichever one works for you. Either way, you got yourself revved up and ready to tackle some new goals!

I’m getting ahead of myself though. I wanna revisit that feeling of being unaccomplished for a minute. I’m not sure why yet – but I think it’s going to be important and here’s a twist – when I finished this 52nd run last week that’s how I felt. Unaccomplished. Now I don’t know if its the usual post-event-now-what feeling or not but I remember thinking “was this really the best use of my energy? Did I help anyone but me?”

This feeling usually hits me the hardest in the Fall. That time of year when the sun does its thing and starts to show up late for work. Later and later every day. Then we do our stupid human thing and change all of our clocks at the same time to try to fool the sun into staying at work later the next day. We do this during the middle of the night I might add – while the sun isn’t even here to defend itself. Of course the Sun figures out what is going on and then continues to show up later and later and for less and less time. Not only that – it gets a little distant and starts slacking at work!

The fall sun is like my cat – he just needs a hug.

Oh sure – it still gives off the sunlight but it gives us that nasty harsh in-your-face-no-matter-how-hard-you-try-to-look-away kind of light. Not the warm gentle light of 8pm in August. But where it really slacks off is in the heat department. You know what I’m talking about. Big Science would have you believe it has something to do with the Earth’s axis blah blah blah… Let’s face it people – the Sun is mad because we all ganged up and changed the clocks while it was sleeping. What the sun really needs is a hug. Maybe then it would stay out longer and push through the winter months cranking out the heat like a champ and we wouldn’t need to move to Florida or California or …Sun City when we retire.

I don’t know if my facts are straight on all that. All I I know is that hugs work for me… which brings me back to my point. Goal Setting and the New Year.

You: “Finally – these rambly posts go on for days.”
Me: “Wait – was that my point? IS that a point!? It’s more like a pair of things, or not even a pair really – more like a collection of two things…”
You: “Dude – Christmas will be here before you figure out what you want to say! Speaking of Christmas it is NOT the new year so what are you even talking about?”

This pretty tree – you’ve earned it.

I know, it’s not THE new year but it is A new year. Technically, every day starts a new year and this little shift in thinking helps me sometimes. You see, fear plays an integral part in moving me to action – and the thought of a new day does not scare me. Why would it? It gives me a positive feeling – one where I’m free to start over and look at everything with new eyes. It reminds me that yesterday does not equal today and that I can let yesterday go – if I want or need to. And that’s important because that feeling gives me the courage to maybe try again but – it doesn’t move me to actually DO anything.

Fear? Pressure? Constraints? A time limit? Come at me bro. For those things I will take action.

Laying on the couch emerging from a bad food decision that lasted from Halloween to New Year’s Eve (the official one) is not where I want to be when it’s time to envision the next 365 days because in that state almost *anything* would look worth doing by comparison.

The Run

Like many of these runs, I did not have a plan for this one. I had a window of time when Sara would be at school working on some club projects so I used that constraint to at least set *when* I would run. (See – constraints at work…)

I dressed for the run, dropped Sara at school, brought my car home and then just started running. The neighborhood. Then South on Riva Road. I considered running over the bridge past Mike’s Crab House and into the old hood to check out the old house – but if I’m being honest – running past the old house still hurts.

I ran some side streets and then turned around near the bridge and headed back North towards the school. When I got there I ran towards the back where all of the youth leagues were in full weekend mode – scores of kids all decked out in uniforms. Moms and Dads socializing with one eye and watching the rest of the fam with the other. The scene, the Fall air, the sounds – it all hit me in the gut. I guess I’d be running past the old house after all – or at least it was running past me.

I spotted a trail head at the tree line and – squirrel! – thought to myself “I better get used to trails if I’m going to run that 40 miler next year” and popped into the woods.

I’ve been hearing about these trails for years but this was my first time. I like that on my last of these runs I still ran somewhere completely new. I also liked that the woods seemed to bring my head out of the past and into the moment. I saw a red mark on a nearby tree and thought “lets see where the red trail goes.”

It was well marked and not super technical. I stopped at one point when I caught a glimpse of water.

Mother Nature: “Hey – check out this water.”
Me: Stops and stares as if I have never seen a body of water before.
Mother Nature: “Made you look!”
Me: “D’oh!”

The red trail wound around and eventually made its way back to the athletic fields. I dodged a few dog walkers, pet some dogs, and re-entered the woods. Another red tree… ooh a blue mark! Let’s see where the blue trail goes. Now I knew that somehow these trails connect somewhere behind the Department of Agriculture buildings on Truman Parkway so I tried to nose my way in that direction. But the blue trail had other plans…

One of the friendlier parts of the blue trail.

It quickly dropped down into a ravine and then doubled back on itself… I was headed back towards the water. I didn’t mind. The blue trail was way more technical and not as well maintained but I welcomed the work and followed… and followed… and followed. Now going up I could sense I was coming back to the school and emerged near where I had started.

I felt good. I had about 6 miles to go so I explored my way over to Truman parkway behind buildings that I drive past every day. I finally made it to the local farmers market – but they were nearly packed up for the day. I needed to refill my water and felt I could use some food. Breakfast was… light.

I crossed Riva and ducked into the CVS. A bottle of water and a cliff bar later I was back on the road. I decided to head back home, run the new hood again and call it a day.

And then I was done. It felt good to be done. I felt free.

Not the Run

I thought maybe I would use this last run to think about what I wanted to do over the next year or consider what I had learned over the past year – but like any good plan this one fell apart pretty quickly. But I will say this:

At the end it feels oddly unremarkable… like it’s hard to see the forest from the trees and all that. There were definitely runs that I did not want to do – but as the weeks wore on the conversation with myself about if I felt like doing the run or not got shorter and shorter because it mattered less and less. After awhile the resistance just fades and you do it almost without thinking – like the later miles in a long race.

I know more than a handful of people who regularly run this distance, people who have run every day for over 10 years, people who have run scores of ultras… the list goes on. I mean – Will Turner completed 60 Full Iron Man Triathlons last year.

Pshh! 13.1 miles indeed! Do you even run bro?

Whenever I found myself comparing what I was doing to what other people have done it would take the wind right out of my sails and I would feel like doing it wasn’t worthwhile by comparison. Even though what Will did (and continues to do) quite literally inspired me to begin my own year long challenge – the journey itself taught me that I had to Run for Me and that the thing that made it worth continuing to do was remembering that I made a promise to myself – and keeping that promise is what truly mattered.

Next Week: I may have signed up for 5 triathlons and a 40 mile run next year. I better start training…

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