Making Meaningful Milestones

AJW writes about how certain milestones of distance, time, and achievement can have meaning in running.

By on March 1, 2019 | Comments

AJW's TaproomEarlier this week, during their first-round playoff game, the Stuart Hall girls varsity basketball team–the school at which I work here in Virginia–celebrated with senior Jade Wimbish as she scored the 1,000th point of her high-school career. A four-year varsity player, during her career Jade distinguished herself as one of the most athletic and versatile players in our conference. And what makes Jade’s accomplishment even more incredible is that when Jade joined our school community in the eighth grade, she did not even know the rules of basketball and could barely dribble.

Watching the student body storm the court when Jade scored her 1,000th point, I couldn’t help but reflect on the importance, both real and symbolic, of certain milestones in our lives. Certainly, Jade’s accomplishment does not necessarily mean all that much to those outside of our small community, but what the achievement represents to her and those around her–hard work, consistency, discipline, and drive–will have a longstanding impact on Jade’s life and will impact the school and the students who remain here.

In our running lives, too, many of us have milestones upon which we can build a sense of deeper purpose. Some of these are self-driven and perhaps arbitrary, such as weekly mileage goals or specific fitness targets. Others might be more explicit and public like running a certain time in a race or a particular event a specific number of times. Regardless of the details of these milestones, having the opportunity to achieve them and the target out there on the horizon to shoot for can make us better runners and people.

In my personal running career, I can recall a time in the winter of 2009 to 2010 when I became enlightened by the idea of a meaningful milestone. It was a bitter cold evening and I was sitting at the dinner table with my family in our then home in Idaho. My kids were asking about our plans for the summer and my wife Shelly, commented, somewhat sarcastically, “Well, you guys, you know we’ll be going back to the Western States 100 again to feed Dad’s obsession.”

It was a simple biting comment, for sure, but what followed was one of those family conversations that tends to stick with you for a while and for the first time in that moment I had the desire to finish 10 Western States runs. At the time I had run it six times and really wasn’t thinking that much about it but it became a real focus in that moment, especially when my middle son Logan piped up and said, “What do you think is harder, Dad, scoring 1,000 points in basketball or finishing 10 Western States in under 24 hours?”

Logan had, of course, seen the crinkled newspaper clipping from my youth which described the game during which I scored my 1,000th point in high school. His question gave me pause but also inspired a quick and seemingly off-the-cuff answer, “Well, Logan, maybe we should find out.”

And so it was that my personal mission became a family mission and four-and-half years later, in June of 2014, I finished my 10th and final Western States. To this day it is an accomplishment which carries with it much of the same emotion as that 1,000-point milestone did in 1985. I have a hunch Jade feels some of that same rich emotion today.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Defiant Brewing Company in Pearl River, New York, my childhood hometown. Their delicious Orange Cream Beer, a Belgian wheat beer with a distinct orange-and-vanilla aftertaste, is an outstandingly smooth beer. Creamy like its name suggests, it is a wonderful beer to drink as we look ahead to the warmer, longer days of spring.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What milestones have you set and made meaningful in your life or running?
  • How did that milestone come to possess significance?
  • And, what’s harder, running 10 Western States race under 24 hours or scoring 1,000 points in basketball?!

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.