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?