Patience in Trying Times

AJW writes about using the patience we’ve honed in endurance running to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

By on October 23, 2020 | Comments

AJW's TaproomSeveral years back here in AJW’s Taproom, I wrote a series of articles on ultrarunning and metacognitive skills. After outlining the concepts in an introductory article, I wrote pieces on persistenceresiliencepatiencecourage, and grit. I have been reflecting on these skills over the past several months as we have confronted the myriad challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic. One skill in particular, patience, seems to be particularly relevant to these times.

In recent weeks as the pandemic has worn on and many areas of the country and the world have seen a surge in cases, we have heard a lot about fatigue. It seems that this fatigue is coming in several forms. People are growing weary of wearing masks, frustrated about not being able to gather in groups, and increasingly disappointed about the lack of any normalcy in their lives. Societal impatience has subsequently crept in and people have let their guard down, been less vigilant in their compliance with guidelines, and tensions have emerged as a result.

Long-distance ultrarunning teaches us to be patient. In a long run, we actually have no choice but to be patient and the impatient ultrarunner more often than not ends up on the DNF list. How many times have you struggled to keep your pace sensible in the early parts of an ultra knowing that you need to preserve energy? And how often have you become increasingly frustrated by the elements? Rain, wind, and heat, these can all test the limits of our patience. Yet, in ultrarunning, as we experience these challenges, we build up patience, almost like a muscle, and we become more well equipped to handle those times when impatience rules the day.

With the prospect of the pandemic continuing into 2021 and beyond, now is the time for those of us who have honed our patience skills over long hours on the trail to encourage others to do the same. Like when you look around at mile 75 of a 100 miler, everybody is tired, everybody has sore legs, and everybody has at least some inkling of wanting to stop running through their minds. And, it is in those moments when we most need to summon the patience to reject the feelings of frustration and despair and forge on.

So, as we enter into what will undoubtedly be a long, rough next few months, lean into the skills we have learned over our years of long-distance running. When you feel the urge to let your guard down and take off your mask, attend a mass event, or eschew social distancing, remember those times when a long-distance run forced you to accept your current reality, no matter how difficult, and just deal with it. After all, that’s pretty much what we all have to do to get through this anyway.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Libertine Brewing Company in San Luis Obispo, California. Known in recent years for their sour and wild ales, I recently was able to sample a bottle of their Autumn Leaves Farmhouse Ale. Brewed with equinox hops and featuring a tart finish, Autumn Leaves is, not surprisingly, a perfect beer for a crisp fall evening.

Call for Comments

  • Are you using the patience you’ve honed through trail running and ultrarunning to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What other parts of life require a bit more of your patience now than usual?
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.