Spring Training Has Begun

AJW ponders the yearly cycle of the running — and baseball! — season and how “hope springs eternal” as the days get longer.

By on March 1, 2024 | Comments

AJW's TaproomI remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting, bored, in a cold, dark classroom on a gloomy February day in suburban New York. It was 1980. In my 13-year-old mind, there was pretty much nothing in life to look forward to. Then, out of nowhere, my seventh grade history teacher, Mr. Sloan, burst into the classroom in a baseball uniform, brandishing a Louisville Slugger baseball bat, jumping around the room like an eight-year-old.

His get-up was one of those baggy, old-school type uniforms with no discernible team allegiance and the bat was way too small for his hands. He stood there, smiling, gloating actually, waiting for some hint of a reaction from us. Then, just when it started to get awkward, he said, loudly,

“C’mon kids, don’t be so glum, Spring Training starts today. Hope springs eternal!”

He then proceeded to talk about the baseball Spring Training rituals going on in that moment in Scottsdale and St. Petersburg, in Tampa and Tempe and, in the end, he miraculously turned this seemingly meaningless winter morning into a well-crafted geography, history, and life lesson all rolled into one. Of course, in the end, what we all remembered was the uniform and the exclamation, “Hope springs eternal!”

And, thus, here we are, on the cusp of a new running season. Hopeful, optimistic, and eager. Just like those rookies assembling in Arizona and Florida. The lotteries are over and the internet is buzzing with race schedules and summer plans. But, first, lest we forget, there’s spring training.

Silverton Colorado - Spring 2023 - CR2

Silverton, Colorado in spring. Photo: Bryon Powell

We need to practice our bunts. We need to rehearse what to do when the ball is hit to the right side of the infield. We need to, once again, review how to run the wheel play. We also need to know how our ace is recovering from off-season rotator-cuff surgery and how our slugging former right fielder will adjust to life at first base, or, God forbid, as designated hitter.

We need to get accustomed to a new system with a new manager, and we may even need to adapt to a new field with new lights, new grass, and possibly even new dirt. What does this new season have in store for us? Where will the winding road take us this year?

Of course, only time will tell, but for now, does that really matter? The truth is, as of today, we’re all undefeated!

In our dear beloved sport, we’re only just beginning to pick up our weekly tempo runs to get ready for those seemingly short cramp-ridden jaunts at Way Too Cool 50k, Chuckanut 50k, and Promise Land 50k that will quickly give way to slightly longer efforts at the American River 50 Mile, Zane Grey Highline Trail Runs, and Leona Divide 50 Mile and 100k.

Katherine Short - 2023 Way Too Cool 50k - women's winner

Katherine Short wins the 2023 Way Too Cool 50k, an iconic spring race. Photo: Way Too Cool 50k/Amy Classon

Come May, we’ll be sharpening our fitness at Miwok 100k and the Quad Rock 25/50 Mile before dropping into the early months of summer at Old Dominion 100 Mile, San Diego 100 Mile, Bighorn 100 Mile, and Western States 100.

The balance of the summer will be filled with intrigue and excitement at Hardrock 100, Vermont 50 Mile, Leadville 100 Mile, and Wasatch Front 100 Mile, with Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile and Javelina 100 Mile also entering the mix.

Then we’ll roll into the autumn with a slew of other opportunities to see who can be the least tired after a glorious summer on the trail. I, for one, am always impressed with those runners who still get it done in 100-mile races when the leaves turn brown.

The point of all this, of course, is that there is a certain discernible rhythm to what we do. As we continue to seek meaning in our lives and find a place for ourselves in the order of things, it is nice to know that the cycle of our running year, like the enduring cycle of the baseball season, is at once predictable and sanguine.

While we never know what may be lurking around the next bend, we do know that as the days get longer and the sun gets higher, we are pulled to the trail like the shortstop is pulled to the bag. The yearly ritual of our sport requires a certain focus as well as a degree of serendipity that makes it, in the end, worthwhile no matter who we are.

And while hope springs eternal for all of us in this time of great promise, we also know that the clock keeps ticking, the miles keep rolling, and the joy of being “out there” is fleeting. So, in the spirit of spring, let’s lace ’em up and get after it!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Cigar City Brewing LogoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida. Theoretical Jam is a delicious wheat ale brewed with El Dorado hops that imparts a pleasant berry flavor on top of the typical wheaty yeastiness. A perfect beer to while away an afternoon watching a ballgame.

Call for Comments

  • Do you have significant annual markers during each running year?
  • Do you tend to structure each year similarly, or do you try to mix it up?
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.