Finding the Small Joys

For a multitude of reasons, I find it harder to run at this time of year. For me, it’s typically after my biggest races of the year and before I know what I’ll be aiming for next. The days are getting colder and shorter. I go a little too deep into my “off season” projects, both personal and work-related. There are no big adventures, just runs from my doorstep. These factors combine to sap my confidence and motivation, while tweaking some anxiety. This is nothing new.

In these times, my positive focus changes, zooming in on smaller scales. Instead of the effortless 20 miler or five miles of flying, joy comes out of a playful sprint across the tilled field with my neighbors’ dog Boy or a pasture-length jog with four goats joining me in stride.

Gone are the grand vistas from atop mountain peaks. Instead, I observe them in miniature from afar… and very far.

Broad expanses of flaming aspens have given way to close observation of how the afternoon light plays with the 100-meter-long grove of mature deciduous trees that ensconce Pack Creek Road 1.5 miles up the hill.

Oh, how the paw prints tell the story of many a bear that came to the ranch this autumn, to eat the bumper crop of apples and acorns. Today, another print related the passage of a puma up by the yurt.

A snail shell. Petrified wood. A rusty, old can. Each tells a story of life gone by. Listening to each of them brings me joy.

One evening, Chicago Sid calls out from his porch as I run by. I wave back. The next day, I hear neighbor Jeff call out from amidst the piñons. I call back. This morning, Seldom Seen smiles down at me from atop his tractor as he loads hay. I smile back. These are but moments in my runs, only a few seconds in my day, but in them I find joy.

Call for Comments

  • When do you find yourself focusing on the smaller joys?
  • Where do you find them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com. Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

View Comments (4)

  • Bryon

    What a great piece of writing. Finding joy in the seemingly mundane is always a treat.
    On my runs with heightened senses I enjoy seeing that same old split branch, stone by the path and revel in the continuity but appreciate any changes.

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  • Oh man Bryon .. you find petrified wood during your runs...amazing. I am an ultrarunner and a rockhound from Austria...that sounds really great..i love wood almost petrified!! Thanks for your work. I follow all your stuff. Greetings from the austrian granite Highlands.

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  • Bryon,
    Timely post! Sure the small joys are more important for me at this time of year. But it works the same in summer: find only my footprints from my last visit to a trail; catch a glimpse a sunset; surprise a wandering wildlife (small and peaceable, here); run through a bright and colorfull bed of dead leafs. And what about maximum-hot heating system of the car on the freezing fingers when I return home after a race? Day in day out, I find a little pleasure at nearly each time I put my shoes on--never blasé.
    Thanks

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  • Back at the tail end of summer I developed a knee injury which put paid to my planned trail marathon in the autumn. In fact I wasn’t able to run for weeks. I’m slowly getting back into moving again, no more than 5 miles every other day, no hills, and sometimes even that is too much. But, getting out for a run again is magic. I’ve adopted a motto: a slow run is better than no run. This morning it was the magic of running through the woods to the river with my dogs, the sound of migrating geese honking to each other as they rested on a sandbank, the sight of four mute swans taking off just over our heads.

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