Meaning in the Miles

Finding a deeper meaning behind the miles in a big training block.

By on June 1, 2016 | Comments

Once again, as May turns to June, I find myself cranking out more mileage than I have at nearly any point in my life just as was the case this time last year. Yes, it does mean that I’m getting ready for a focus race, in this case the Hardrock 100, and, yes, I am enjoying the inherent motion, exploration, beauty, and escape that come with the training, but I’ve also come to find more meaning behind the miles.

Much of my year is a mad scramble traveling between continents to cover races, staying up late to finish editing a book chapter, working around the clock to finish up home repairs, and so on. While those details are particular to me, the hustle and bustle of modern life is something with which most of us are familiar. Sometimes that frenzy, that unending barrage of obligations to which we avail ourselves is overwhelming to the point of affecting our physical or mental well-being. We get sick. We get depressed or anxious. At the least, our busy lives certainly get in the way, directly (lack of time) or indirectly (stress/fatigue/etc.), of our ability to train as runners.

[Now, this certainly isn’t the end of the world. Aside from some derivate communal value from running’s physical health and emotional benefits, running is generally a self-benefiting activity. Fair enough. Still, running is something that most anyone reading this site enjoys and wishes to pursue.]

These past two weeks I’ve indulged myself with many a mile in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to go with a few good runs in New Mexico. What I’ve come to appreciate this year is that I could only do this sort of training if and when I get the rest of my life in order. I need to have my work obligations under control and maintain a mindset where I can get my still sizeable workload effectively and efficiently done. I need to get enough good sleep to bounce back between many hour outings on consecutive days. I need to have cultivated a less stressful atmosphere and move past stress when it does crop up. The past two years, I’ve done these things with intention such that I could spend a few concentrated weeks focusing on my running.

It’s too early to say for this year, but last year the miles came and went in heaps. There were no injuries nor burnout nor breakdowns. Those successful miles meant I’d made the time to train and, perhaps more important, prioritized the healthy living components necessary to absorb and assimilate that training. No matter how last year’s Hardrock turned out for me, that was a meaningful success.

Now, a year later, with much greater cognizance of this positive meaning behind my miles, I hope I once again use the impetus of a heavy Hardrock training block to prioritize the healthy lifestyle that makes it possible. And, maybe this year, I’ll be able to continue living the meaning behind those miles well past when I (hopefully) kiss a certain rock mid-July.

[Author’s Note: This is the first in what I hope will be a monthly column on iRunFar. For the past few years, I’ve wanted a space to share my own running-related thoughts, whatever they may be, but hadn’t created the time to do so. Much like the piece above, I find that this column represents some indication of success in making my life more manageable and hope that it’s a spur to continue moving in that direction in the future.]

Call for Comments

Do you use running as an impetus to improve other parts of your life? If so, how?


[All photos by Bryon Powell during the first two weeks of his Camp Hardrock 2016.]

Camp Bird Road - Ruby Trust Mine Entrance

Valles Caldera

La Luz Trail

Silverton from Kendall Mountain Rd

The Sultan with Crown of Light

Kendall Gulch

Road 52 toward Storm Peak

Kendall Mountain Rd - Half and Half

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.