Running And Renewal

AJWs TaproomNew Year’s Day always provides me with an opportunity to look forward and back. It is a day to take stock of where I am and glance ahead at where I am going. Many of us use the new year to make lists, set goals, and outline plans for what lies ahead. As a runner, I like to use this time of year to envision a new future for my running life, a future filled with joy and hope.

Every time we lace up our shoes and head out the door, we have the chance to renew. Each run brings to us a new awareness and awakening. And if we’re lucky, each run also brings us a little bit closer to ourselves.

This hit me recently out on the trail. I have a favorite loop here in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the network of paths surrounding Carter’s Mountain. It’s a fairly typical six-mile course with winding singletrack, a few steep hills, and some nice views. In the last five years, I have probably run the loop 200 times. It’s a comfortable place for me to be.

The last time I went out there it felt new somehow. My outing–which was a powerhike instead of a run as I’m recovering from hip surgery–started innocently enough with the steady, grinding, 700-foot climb to the ridge and then the sharp left along the off-camber trail we affectionately call MoFo. Gathering momentum along the ridge and feeling warmed up, my breathing steadied and I enjoyed the ease of the day. But then, on the steep, switchbacking descent back toward the valley, the effort seemed to take on a life of its own. I can’t really explain it but in that moment things just got easier, smoother, and, there is no other way to explain it, newer. Even though I was in a place doing a thing I had done many times before, it surprisingly became fresh.

By the time I finished and got back to my car, it felt as if I had barely started. Sure, I was tired and a bit worked but something about the whole thing had an air of mystery to it. As I climbed back into my car and returned to the rest of my life, something about that workout lingered in me. Something seemed to stick.

Even after two decades “on the run,” it seems to me like you never really know what you’re going to get when you head out on a run. We do it mostly, I think, for physical reasons and yet the emotional and psychological benefits are immense. The thing is, it seems to me that it is best to not try too hard. Letting a run come to me actually opens the way for the renewal that this time of year begs of us. Making ourselves vulnerable to the unknown, to the hopeful, and to the mystery is one of running’s greatest, and most enduring, gifts. Here’s hoping you all find renewal in the new year!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Maine Beer Company DinnerThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from the Maine Beer Company. The big brother of their award-winning IPA Lunch is their Double IPA Dinner. I had it for the first time earlier this week and it was extraordinary. Made in the same style as other classic New England DIPAs, something about Dinner’s elegant simplicity made it a bit more memorable. If you can get your hands on it, I urge you to give it a try!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Does New Year’s Day trigger in you a sense of renewal? Do you feel that sense of renewal in life generally, in your relationships, your hobbies?
  • What about running? When and how does your running undergo a sense of renewal? Once or twice a year? Somewhat inexplicably on a random run?

There are 3 comments

  1. chriswristen

    "The thing is, it seems to me that it is best to not try too hard. Letting a run come to me actually opens the way for the renewal that this time of year begs of us."

    Andy, this quote pretty much sums up the past two years of running for me. Very on-point.

    Cheers to a new year filled with happy miles!

  2. Nelson Prater

    I started running a little almost 33 years ago because clothes for a 320-pound man were harder to find than they are now and were a lot more expensive. We were newlyweds and on a tight budget. I remember once my wife was hemming a pair of new wool work slacks and cut them off too short, and she just started bawling uncontrollably. I knew then I had to do something.

    But, it’s been 21 years since I stopped running as a workout and started running for some other reason. I’m sure it coincided with my starting to read George Sheehan. And, then came Dean’s book which totally changed my running paradigms and (for me) made 50 milers a possibility. And, then there was Micah True, Caballo Blanco – I started “running free” (of headphones, watches, timers, phones, etc.) And, now I have come full circle back to running with AJW.

    I wouldn’t still be doing the same 4 a.m. runs, routes, etc., at least 5 days a week, going on 21 years, as a workout. I’ve tried workouts – my New Year’s crunches workout lasts about 3 days each year, a week tops. I think I do them because it’s just who I am.

    I try to remember to look up and say a little prayer of thanks after each run. Because I know that (though I don’t expect it) something could happen at any time that could abruptly end my ability to get up and run – some type of injury or something. I’m not sure who I would be if I wasn’t up running in the mornings. I really don’t want to find out. Sometimes when I look up to give thanks, just often enough, I get a shooting star response. This morning, it was a smiling moon off to the southeast.

    Thanks, AJW, for reminding us (really) why we run!

    1. chriswristen

      That’s a great story, Nelson. Congrats on 33 years of running – so far! – and the evolving journey it has taken you on. I hope 2016 is your most fulfilling year of running yet!

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