Savor Every Mile

I’ve discovered more than ever in the past few weeks just how much I enjoy getting out for a run each day. As is often the case, it has taken not being able to do something that’s made me appreciate that thing so much more. I’ve hardly run since August 11th. I’ve been dealing with a condition/illness that my doctor and I haven’t been able to yet diagnose. Through most of this time I could go out for a run, but it’s clear by the way my body is responding to running that it’s not good for me right now. I have no desire to go into the physical/medical details, as there are currently a lot more questions than answers, but what I do want to talk about is the effect that this experience has had on my thoughts about running.

I’ve known for a long time that running makes me really happy. If I get sick or injured and I can’t run for a period of time I’m generally aware of a desire to get healthy so I can start running again. In these temporary cases though, it usually seems to be focused more on the specifics of my running at that time. If I have a race in my near future I get wrapped up in trying to figure out how to best manage my body through the injury or illness to still be able to do that race, and hopefully do it well. It’s always a bummer to be physically unable to run for any period of time, but usually I find it pretty easy to just enjoy the extra free time, and prepare myself as best I can physically and mentally for my return to health, and to running.

This time though, my mindset is very different. For the first time in my life I have something going on in which the larger question isn’t, “when will I be healthy enough to start running again,” but rather, “will I ever be healthy enough to run again?” Not to be too dramatic or alarmist here, and chances are I’ll get this figured out and be “up and running” in short time, but it’s also possible that my body is dealing with something that will keep me from being able to ever run again, at least in the way, and to the degree that I’ve run for the past 6 years.

This situation has caused me to see things very differently. I haven’t once found myself thinking about wanting to get healthy to be able to run certain events or races in the future. I’ve stripped things back so much further than that, and discovered a much more pure affinity for running. As I’ve had to confront the potential for such a large change in my relationship with running I haven’t once felt sad about the possibility of never being able to race again. Instead, I’ve been feeling sadness about all the places that I might not ever get a chance to take myself on my own two feet. There’s something pure and satisfying about being able to just lace up a pair of shoes and head out wherever one pleases. I’ve been healthy enough until now that I’ve never had to question my ability to simply go out for a run ever again. I’ve almost constantly had questions about whether I can run as strong and as fast as I might want to, but never whether or not I can simply go out at all. It’s such a larger challenge to confront, but one that has been very clarifying and confirming. I know I will never again have any confusion or doubts as to why I run and what I get out of running. With so many uncertainties right now, one thing I know for certain is that I will never again take one mile for granted. It really is a special thing, and if there’s been one silver lining in these past few weeks, it has been coming to have even more appreciation for all the incredible runs I’ve gotten to do in the past, and more excitement than ever before for all the ones I hope to do in the future.

There are 40 comments

  1. AJW

    Geoff, I am sorry to hear about your situation and I can empathize completely. The series of injuries I have suffered over the past year (Plantar Fasciitis, meniscus tear, cartilage fissure, etc…) have completely re-defined my relationship to running and while, at least for now, I am back to running 50-60 miles per week (slowly) that absolute health is fleeting and savoring every mile is essential. To be honest, I don't really care if I ever race again, I just want to run. That sentiment in your article is clear!

    I wish you luck and hope you and your doctor can work things out. I'm puling for you!

    AJW

  2. Blair Mann

    Geoff,

    I don't know you and you don't know me, but I have followed your career very closely mainly because I feel you run for reasons far beyond winning or competing. You are dialed into spiritual side of running. I also run for that inner peace and balance it brings to my life. That same mentality you bring to running will heal your body. I wish you all the best, I am sure you will be back savoring miles for years to come. If not, you have inspired countless runners to find that connection that you have mastered.

  3. James @RedDirtRunner

    Like many others I, too, have been there, done that and have the t-shirt. I'm still in the process of working out where I now "belong" as a runner. It's not quite the same place as it was a year ago. And that should awaken one's appreciation for having the ability to move across the land and explore. You already seemed to have a great connection to both running and the land. If this trial bolsters that then all the better for you.

    And know that there are countless kindred souls out in the world sending you good mojo. Here's some from the Ozark Mountains for you.

    Cheers.

  4. Charlie Montana

    Hey Geoff, you and AJW summed it up well. There is nothing like the threat of losing something to make you appreciate it even more. This sport we are addicted to comes with a price tag, and sometimes our bodies pay dearly for the opportunity to run far and long. I speak from experience having lost a summer of racing to a number of injuries. All that seems pretty trivial compared to not being able to run at all. Thanks for sharing your story, it is good medicine for those of us in similar situations.

  5. the runner

    Sorry to hear about your condition/illness. I hope everything turns out for the best.

    It is good for us to step back and appreciate what we've got, strip our running down to the basic act and reflect on how much we savor it.

    Keep positive.

  6. High trails

    Geoff,

    It's sad to hear these news,especially from you,because you are an inpiration for the trail running community but I really hope,this situation is going to be a bad memory in the near future.I'm struggling for about four years now with several injuries and bad luck so,I can barely remember a run without the presence of pain(unfortunately not too many runs).This is the reason I totally undestand and agree with you about the value of running and the need to be in the nature just because…

    I wish to hear you are healthy enough to be on the trails again,as soon as possible,first of all,for your own happiness and then for us,to continue to keep an eye on an inpirational trailrunner like you.

    A trail runner from europe…

  7. John

    I think that type of appreciation is one of the greatest things about the ultra/trail community. It genuinely seems like each and every person, from the back of the packers to the elites finishing up front, have a love for not only the sport…but the act of running itself. Though I'm happy to see that you have reached a point of such clarity and appreciation, I'm sad to hear that it is coming at the cost of what will hopefully just be short term health. (Kick this thing quick!) Good luck Geoff and thanks for the bit of inspiration!

  8. Nelson

    Most of us have had many setbacks in life that often leave us 'singletrack' minded. When we encounter an issue or problem that takes our 'joy' away, we try all means to get the single problem corrected to return to our happy place. In some cases we tend to overlook the other joys in our life. Not to get to deep, but we have to grasp everything we have and enjoy it, not everything we want or wish for.

    Geoff is an inspiration to my newfound love of trail running over the past several years and I know that your setback is a plan to better your life and condition, but I also believe that you can take the hard battle or easy battle to get back your joy, and through this journey it makes you a stronger person and runner.

    Best wishes to you and Thank you.

  9. CJ

    Geoff,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this post and I'm sorry to hear about what you're dealing with. I wonder if the altitude adjustment is part of it? I've heard different people have different experiences in dealing with it. I've been in Colo Springs now for over 4 months and I still don't feel like my body has adjusted completely like I thought it would.

    Anyhow, thanks again for reminding all of us how precious the gift of running is. For me, I have to thank my God for every breath he gives me, let alone each step I can take.

    1. Wyatt Hornsby

      CJ: It took me at least 2 years to adjust to the elevation here in Colorado. I used to have these terrible bouts of lightheadedness after long runs. Your body does make some immediate adjustments, but the total adjustment you make takes a few years. Unfortunately, we adults can't grow bigger lungs, unlike young kids who move to altitude. Blood is a big part of it. Anyway, it's a huge adjustment and, in some ways, I'm still in the midst of it. People who have never lived at altitude for a long period of time could never fully understand what it's like adjusting…and how frustrating and discouraging it can be at times.

      Wyatt

      1. CJ

        Thanks Wyatt, I hear you on that. It's been a little frustrating for me, even after only 4 months, probably because I have such high expectations of myself. Sounds like patience is key here

        1. Wyatt Hornsby

          I think patience is key. There's really not much you can do about it except let your body adjust. I found out the hard way that you recover slower at altitude, and so the 100 miles I week I used to run at sea level soon led to injury at altitude. I'm still figuring it all out.

          Wyatt

  10. Alvin Png

    Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for sharing despite the painful situation now. I'm currently going through a rough patch too. Totally agree with your statement about not taking every single mile for granted. Get well soon. Believe and have faith.

    Cheers

    Alvin… a fellow trail runner from Singapore

  11. olga

    Sadly, seems a lot of us had gone through one thing or another that had put each of us out of "simply running" for quite a long period of time with no permanent, or even certain, return in sight. And like everything in life, this is when we get hit in a head real hard: I just want to be able to do it. Lace my shoes (or not per choice) and get out for an activity as primal as putting one foot in front of another. I hope everything works out, and soon enough, for you. Frankly, it doesn't matter whether you compete again or not – or shouldn't. As long as you're able to do something that makes you happy.

  12. R.C.

    Hope all is well. About 4 years ago I too was dealing with this sort of situation. I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic (insulin dependent). I was told by multiple physicians that I would not be able to run ultras ever again. While I was laying in my hospital bed in the ICU I had a mini breakdown since my life was over as I knew it. However, after much experimentation, I was able to figure things out. Five months after diagnosis I finished my first 100 and have finished many others since. I guess my point here is to stay optimistic and I hope you can figure it out.

    1. KenZ

      R.C.- Fascinating. As an aside, how you handle and manage the logistics of this would make a very interesting read. Please share… maybe an article for Outside Magazine, Ultrarunning, or iRunFar? I'm not saying go out there and promote yourself, I'm saying that pulling off a 100, or even a 50k in any fashion with Type 1 is pretty awesome.

      Goeff- Good luck finding what works for you, by either getting past it, over it, around it, through it, or on to the next "it." Have faith.

  13. Wyatt Hornsby

    Geoff: I am very sorry to hear of what you're going through. Like Andy (but not quite as bad as Andy), I've dealt with some injuries in the past few years that have helped me savor every mile (at least I try to). I've met you a few times, including at the Boulder Basic last fall, and I've always been a big fan of yours. I think for a while the ultrarunning world viewed you as a guy who went out there and set CRs and that was all you did. However, as we've seen in recent years, and as you've written on your blog, you are a lot more than just a great runner.

    Here's to your speedy recovery, and may you continue to find happiness in all that you do (which will hopefully continue to be running).

    Hope to see you out there on the trails sometime soon.

    Wyatt

  14. Dennis Schaefer

    I was a sub-six minute /mile runner back in the 80's up to the 30K distance. Then chronic injuries prevented me from "racing" so I moved to Master's swimming then competitive Taekwondo sparring. Now, at age 61, I am retiring from the sparring and returning to Ultra running. I have experienced retiring, either voluntarily or involuntarily, from alot. But the cure is to find what's next and concentrate on that. When one door closes in life, another opens. You just have to find it.Also, try reading, Still Here by Ram Dass. Great book.

  15. Hone

    For me, I have slowly come to the realization that I will never truly run pain free again. I was in denial for a while but now admit that the high mileage salad days are over. It sucks having lousy genetics. When I was back in AK last week visiting the folks I stared at the mountains thinking of all the time I use to spend exploring in them. I really took it for granted.

    Anyways, sorry to hear about your health problems Geoff. Hope everything gets figured out. It seems your illness might be a bit more worrisome than my bad hips so I hope the best for you. You have always been a cool dude and easy to root for.

    adios

  16. JKuz

    Many high mileage runners should be aware of Acquired Training Intolerance. The condition is a bit mysterious but it is a true described entity in the medical literature.

  17. Matt

    Really terrible news, Geoff. Although your great perspective continues to shine, here's to the best news possible, a phenomenol recovery and more healthy running.

  18. Tarzan Sutton

    Geoff-man, this sucks and I hope you can this taken care of, quick! I really enjoy following your races and watching you win etc etc. But, for your sake, I hope you are able to just lace up the ol' Montrails and head for the mountains…..even if you are just running and exploring…..but, it would be nice to see you on the starting line of either a big race or some local low key event.

    Take care Geoff and hopefully we will soon be reading about you heading to the mountains for hrs on end!

    Peace,

    ~P

  19. Mom Roes

    Yes, this does suck. We are thinking of you every day and keep waiting for the call that tells us what the doctor has decided is ailing you. Can't wait until you are back out running again and having all the fun you deserve. Be tough and remember we all love you.

  20. Michelle Roes

    Easy to say but…..try not to let the bad vibes of anticipation of the worst news drain you. Take it one day and one step at a time and hang tough. And try to stay positive. Love you!

  21. Jay kelly

    Geoff,

    Sorry to hear about your illness/condition. Will pray for wisdom for you and the doctors. Also for healing. I know what it is like to not be able to run and I am thankful everyday for my health. Now is the time to focus on getting healthy and finding joy in other parts of your life. Good luck and keep writing!

  22. Anonymous

    Get well geoff, i hope you find out what is going on in your body, in the beginning of 2012 i had a real flue, and that flue influenced my heart, so the doc allowed only to run 30 min 3 times a week, It was so hart for me not to go for a nice 2 h run in the mountain, but now after 6 month the things are going better, i am running again longer distances. My relationship to my running, the question what is really important for me( running for sure, bevcaue i love etc.) got much more clear.

    Take care and all the best,

    thomas from germany

  23. Ian Burns

    Hey Geoff

    Love your attitude towards running, I hope that your current situation is temporary and your running gives you the joy you have been used to.

    Your latest challenge is exactly that and like most challenges, I am sure u will tackle it head on.

    All the very best of luck

    Ian

  24. Aric

    Geoff,
    You've been an inspiration to me and many others. It is not your fast times and podium finishes that inspire me; it is your humble words, grounded approach, and genuine love of the ultra running experience that I admire most.

    Don't hesitate to call for help or support should you find yourself in need. A small army of silent admirers would surely answer the call.

    Be well.

  25. pnoyflava aka Jeffre

    Wishing you all the best, Geoff
    Baby steps from here, but as the old cliche goes…one foot in front of the other..

    Setbacks are setups for comebacks. You are an inspiration to all.

    Rise and Rise;
    Jeffrey

  26. Max

    Good and profound stuff here. Love it.

    I've been dealing with a knee injury since May, and one thing is sure, is that the next time I'll be running, I will possibly cry out of joy!

    And believe me, I too, will never take one mile for granted ever.

  27. J.H.

    As a fellow Type 1, would love to hear how others deal with their diabetes during Ultra's. I think I have mine dialled for 50 milers (no 100's yet) although it always seems to change. The biggest change though was moving to the pump which has made management especially during races much more manageable. Maybe IRunFar could get one of the MD contributors to impart some advice/comments. Not much out their for endurance runners as most info is focussed on Type 2 Diabetics.

    Geoff, all the best having come off over a year of injuries, I need to continually remind myself to be grateful that I am running again.

  28. francis

    Geoff,

    Thanks for sharing your story….all the best on understanding what is going on and getting back into the running….sending good stoke from Boulder.

  29. Marcelo Lafuente

    Get well my friend. Just finished sending you all of my good vibes. I may need a nap:) Keep believing and I am sure this will get done with. I know I do.

  30. Ron

    Bad and good affects upon other people get passed down beyond our lifetime and we inherit those of former times. Life does have a purpose, and it is simple: to turn chains of bad affects into good ones, so that good ones may replicate throughout the future, largely beyond our direct influence. The body itself is not a very stable platform and will always betray us in big or little ways, increasingly as we get older, and finally in the end. Athletes are very aware of this. By your writing this article, Geoff, and by what has appeared to me as your example elsewhere, you are doing the most important thing in this life–sharing and passing on good affects upon others. Whatever running that you can do or whatever else that you can do, big or small, so that you can keep affecting others in good ways is more important than any race or placing. I trust that you will get better, and I trust that you will continue to use running or other things as a means toward a greater end. Thank you for writing this article and for your work elsewhere, including in running. Get well.

  31. Brandon Baker

    I understand completely- We have found the simplest of freedom's to enjoy and to become part of our routine- and although there are many beautiful and worthwhile adventures to be had in this life, there is something about running (i think even more so for running trails and mountains) that cannot be found in other things- God knows we could use it and are better for it everyday.- Keep on Geoff!!

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