Another year has nearly come and gone. This is a time of new beginnings, and a time that I always like to look ahead and move forward to new and exciting things in the upcoming year and beyond. It is also a time that lends itself well to reflecting on things observed and experienced in the past 12 months.
For me, 2015 has been a very robust and exciting year. Not that it hasn’t had its share of challenges, but in general this has been a very positive year for me, both as a runner and in other areas of my life.
I almost certainly ran more in 2015 than I have in any year since 2012, but I was also able to move to a place of being very comfortable with the regular ups and downs of running. I had some tough stretches this year in which illness and/or injury limited my running for several weeks at a time. These moments are always a bit challenging, but I feel like I have been able to better understand how to cope with them and learn from them as I mature (aka: get old. I will be 40 in 2016!)
I also moved to a place in 2015 in which I am much more comfortable with the fact that my running has very little focus on organized events. As my health eroded in late 2012 and continued to be a prominent limiting factor for all of 2013 and the better part of 2014, it was very hard for me to accept that I couldn’t plan to run a certain event at a certain time. Nowadays, when I have stretches in which I’m feeling decent I could potentially train for and run specific races, but these stretches are so unpredictable that it doesn’t really make sense for me to try to plan any specific events. This was a hard reality to accept for a couple years, but now it is much easier to accept and often even feels like a liberating thing. In a sense my running has been forced to become the low-key, laid-back thing that I always worked hard to ensure that it was.
This said, I did run a few organized events this year. Most of them were short, local races, but the most memorable was a fat ass that I organized here in Juneau, Alaska, which was undoubtedly one of my running highlights of the year. Running the route was super fun and immensely challenging. (The route was 28 miles with 15,000 feet of vertical gain, and the winning time was seven hours, 20 minutes.) But my most fond memories of this event I created were sharing it with so many great people. Fifty-five people participated and it seemed like most of them had a genuinely great time. I plan to do the same kind of thing again in 2016, albeit with a different, likely even more challenging course. I even enjoyed organizing this unofficial event so much that I hope and plan to move in the direction of organizing an official race(s) here in Juneau in the coming year(s). I’m currently in the early stages of trying to put together a Juneau ridge race for 2016. If you’re interested in an Alaskan destination race for 2016, keep your eyes open for that.
On a mostly non-running note, I bought an amazing house in 2015. Our closing date of July 15th put a huge burden on being able to spend as much time outside as I would have liked to in the second half of the summer, but now that we are totally settled in it feels so great to know that we won’t be moving again for a very long time. Moving into this house was our 12th time moving in about five years so having a steady place for years to come will be a very welcome change. I am also living once again in a house that has a trail essentially leaving from my front door. I have been fortunate enough to live this way for the better part of the past decade, and it feels really good knowing that I will live this way for at least the next several years, and likely quite longer. There is just something so comforting about being able to go out your door and step directly on to trail. Even here in Juneau where there are so many trails that I often go a couple weeks without running this trail that starts from my house, it is so great just knowing that I can always lace up the shoes, walk out the door, and be in the forest on a trail without even needing to run for 20 seconds to get to the trailhead.
As has been the case for each of my past five years, another season of Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp was another definite running highlight of mine in 2015. We did four really satisfying sessions this year, including our first ever winter session in February. It’s been interesting to have done these camps for so many years now, and to see how runners have changed over this time. The most noticeable observation has been that runners really haven’t changed that much. The dozen people who came to our last session this August could have easily been the dozen who came to our first session in June of 2011. This said there have been some subtle differences. Participants have gotten younger on average. Our fist two years of doing camps we had very few folks under 30, now we regularly have “kids” who are under 21. Another noticeable difference has been that we get a lot more runners who aren’t necessarily into racing. The first two years of camp just about everyone who participated were people who were racing on a fairly regular basis. In 2014 and especially in 2015, I have noticed many more participants who just like to get out and run in beautiful places and have either never raced or have no plans to race again in the future. Our camps are a fairly small sample, but it does lead me to believe that these are trends that are also occurring within the larger sport. We have two more sessions of camp planned for 2016. I am already getting excited for those experiences and to meet a couple dozen more great people from all over the world.
One recent thing that has also been a highlight of my year in running has been the return of winter to Juneau, and with it a reminder of just how much I like being an outdoor enthusiast in winter. Last year winter never really happened in this part of the world. We pretty much had five months of November, and if you’ve ever spent time in Southeast Alaska in November you know that this is a not a good thing. Imagine 45 degrees Fahrenheit and raining. Now imagine 45 degrees and raining for five months. Not good. Twenty-five degrees and snowing on the other hand creates a magical outdoor playground that offers so much variety and new opportunity. I’ve written full articles on this topic so I won’t go into it further here, but my love of winter has been made even stronger than ever after being completely deprived of it last winter.
In closing, I hope you all have had a great year of running in 2015. More importantly, I hope everyone has an even better year ahead in 2016. It’s obviously very cliché and predictable to talk about new beginnings and the significance of moving forward this time of the year, but we’d be crazy to not take advantage of the flipping of the calendar to help us strive to be wiser, healthier, and better people. Most importantly, though, is not what you did in 2015 or what you will do in 2016, but is what you do right now. You might be reading this with a day remaining in 2015 or you might be reading it several days (or more) into 2016, but no matter what day the calendar says it is you can always choose to make the most of your time at this exact moment. Sing. Dance. Love. Cry. Create. Or simply go out for a run. You won’t regret it.
Happy New Year.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Can you reflect for a moment on your own 2015? What were your year’s highlights? What did you learn? What are you most proud of?
- In looking toward 2016, what is in the cards for you? What dreams will you turn into reality? What will you do again and again because you like it so much? What will you not repeat next year?