Great Expectations

AJW’s thoughts on staying in the moment while preparing for a big goal race.

By on May 26, 2023 | Comments

AJW's TaproomFor many ultrarunners in North America and Europe, the end of May is a time of great expectations. After this past winter, which was particularly long and snowy, the trails have finally opened up in the high country and runners are finding themselves getting out for longer and longer outings. For the lucky few, it’s high time to log big miles in preparation for Western States 100, Hardrock 100, or any of the other marquee races on the calendar. For others, who might not be directing their attention to particular events, this is a time for expanding horizons and deepening fitness. In many ways, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

For me, back when I was a competitive racer, the latter part of May made me feel a lot like a six-year-old boy a month or two before Christmas. The big day was getting closer and closer and yet the waiting was excruciatingly difficult. And, it was in the midst of the waiting and the anticipation that I always strived to simply stay in the moment.

I’ve been asked by runners many times over the years, “How, how in the midst of great expectations can one stay in the moment?”

I try to focus on three simple things:

AJW training in Cunningham Gulch before 2016 Hardrock

AJW training above Cunningham Gulch before the 2016 Hardrock 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Savor Every Run

While some runs are easier than others, longer than others, or less pleasant than others, they are all runs, all bricks in the wall of your training and all a part of your overall body of work. With each day comes a new opportunity for discovery, a new chance to connect with the community, and another window into the environment which we are so fortunate to run through. By savoring every run, I find joy in the process and keep the nervous anticipation at bay.

Celebrate the Little Things

While training for a big event is a lot about the big picture, the hundreds of little details that combine to ultimately lead to success in a long-distance race are often most important. Spend time thinking about your shoes, your gear, your plans for the week before race day — all of those things that in isolation are just mundane details but when put together provide the foundation for the wonder and beauty of long miles on the trails.

Be Optimistic

We must always remember that running is something that we get to do, not something that we have to do. There is no feeling quite like the feeling of finishing a good run, filled with hope and endorphins. In those euphoric fleeting moments immediately following a run I feel energized, positive, and filled with joy. Why not try to extend that to all parts of my life? Stay positive and optimistic and good things will happen. Maybe not right away, but eventually they will.

For those of you out there struggling to manage the excitement of this period of great expectations, I urge you to find ways to stay in the moment. And, if it works for you to savor every run, celebrate the little things, and stay optimistic — I say go for it. It will help you get to race day, for sure, but it will also help you get through race day and that, after all, is the ultimate goal.

Bottoms up!

Tom Green - 2014 Western States 100

Tom Green, the final finisher of the 2014 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Carib Brewery logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Carib Brewery in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Key West Pale Ale is a classic American Pale Ale with a touch of maltiness and a gentle bitterness. At 5% ABV it is a middle-of-the-road Pale Ale that is perfect for these warming summer days.

Call for Comments

  • Are you training for something big right now? How is it going?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.