I’ve always been the type of person who puts a large amount of energy into one thing at a time. I’m open to trying new things when I get the chance, but for the most part I tend to have “my thing” at any given time, and that thing tends to take up the majority of my free time.
When I was 19, I read frantically. I probably read more books in a month at that time than I do in a five-year span now. In the height of this phase I remember reading War and Peace in three days. At the time, that just seemed like the logical way to do it, because reading was my thing. Then, when I was 23, I went on my first whitewater rafting trip. Later that year, I bought a raft and spent about 75 days a year on the river for the next few years. After that I was turned on to the joys of mountain biking. Within weeks of my first ride, I owned a $4,000 bike and rode five or six days a week. A few years later, I took up running again for the first time in about a decade and proceeded to put 100 percent of my energy into running for more than five years, taking it so far as to become a “professional” runner.
For most of the past year though I haven’t really had a “thing.” In some ways running is certainly still my thing. A lot of my lifestyle, my community, and my mind is still tied to running, but the reality is that I have only been on about 30 runs in the past 10 months. In this sense, I have certainly felt a little lost in this time, but I have also begun to see the value in not having one thing that takes up so much of my time. Phases of intense focus can be very productive and very satisfying, but when you are, for example, running an average of three hours a day (and many days over five hours) for five straight years, you do end up passing on a lot of other opportunities. I don’t know if I’ll ever run again in the way that I did from 2007 to 2012, but, right now, I’m finding myself very comfortable with a much more relaxed relationship with running, but also with so much extra space in my life to take on new adventures and go on new journeys.
In the past two weeks alone I have gone on two great adventures that I just wouldn’t have done at most points in the previous several years. First a three-day kayak trip and then a six-day boat trip. These both meant little to no running for this duration. This might not sound like much, but this is a compromise that I would not have previously made unless I was injured or recovering from a long race. I’ve missed running in the past 10 days while I’ve been on these other outings, but I’ve also been exposed to some new experiences and seen some things in a slightly different way than I do when running in the mountains every day.
This isn’t to say that I’m no longer interested in running, and that I no longer want to run, but just that I feel myself being a lot more open to putting some energy into some different things, and this feels really exciting. It’s exciting to know that a month or two from now I will likely have encountered some entirely new and exciting experiences that I just would not have had if I were still so focused on one specific thing. It’s late spring in Alaska, a time when there are so many new and interesting opportunities around every corner. I’m excited to see which road my current place in life takes me down.
All of this said, though, a huge part of my heart is still in the mountains, and in exploring the mountains on foot. Tomorrow is supposed to be a wonderful late spring day here in Alaska, complete with nearly 20 hours of daylight, and I feel myself being drawn to the mountains, to explore new ridge lines somewhere in the vast wilderness surrounding me. The difference from the previous several years though, is that I might then spend the next several days to follow doing something entirely new and foreign to me.
Maybe I’m being overly optimistic when in reality I’m just making the best of a bad situation, but, right now, I feel amazingly content with my relationship with running. Certainly, I want and expect my health to continue to get a lot better in the months to come, and when it does I will almost certainly continue to run more regularly (as I have already done in the past six weeks), but I also have come to a place of feeling very content with my running and the way that it fits into my life right now. It’s probably the most balanced that my life has been in a long time, and balance can be a really good thing.