The Seasons of Our Running

Recently, it dawned on me that over of the past half decade, many of my biggest running adventures have taken place around the same time, roughly October. It’s fun to see not only that commonality, but also that it’s occurred regardless of how my running, professional commitments, or personal life have otherwise played out in a given year. It’s been that way under “normal” life and in this pandemic year. It’s been that way whether I’d run a focus race earlier in the year or not. It’s been that way whether my October-ish adventure was a self-planned adventure or an out-there race. I guess I’m coming to find that my life might have an annual rhythm that I never knew about.

If I look back to back to 2015, late September and early October saw me in the Gobi Desert of north-central China where I ran the Ultra Trail Gobi Race (UTGR), a 250-mile cross-country race in which competitors navigated their own way between the 30-some checkpoints. To say this was one of the grandest adventures of my life would be an understatement. You can read up on the full adventure and the gear details, if you like.

The view as day 3 ended during UTGR. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

A year later, I was scheduled to return to the Gobi again in late September into October for the UTGR, but an Achilles injury keep me off the start line.

For 2017, I ended September and ran into October with a multi-day run adventure from our home near Moab, Utah to the north end of Bears Ears National Monument where I wove my way to its southern boundary over the course of nine days and 250-some miles. While within running distance from home, nearly all of the route was entirely new to me and I marveled in the expansive and varied terrain. At the same time, the long solo trip gave me plenty of time to explore inward in a meaningful way that I soon thereafter continued in a more intentional personal retreat. Both the run and the retreat made my life better. Join me for this journey in my article in Sierra Magazine.

Bears Ears Trail Run Cedar Mesa Landskein

A view of Cedar Mesa from between the Bears Ears buttes. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Then came 2018, the only year in this span in which I didn’t plan a big autumn adventure… or at least not one I can remember. Perhaps that spring’s White Mountains 100 Mile had been enough to scratch my adventure itch for the year.

I guess I made up for it in autumn 2019 with a trifecta of adventures, which was all the more meaningful given that my participation in both the Hardrock 100 and UTGR fell through. In mid-September, I visited Lake City, Colorado for the first time, making my way there from nearby Silverton, Colorado on foot one day and, then, continuing on to volunteer at an event on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River the next day to wrap up a 58-mile, two-day adventure with a worthwhile finish. A few weeks later, I ran a three-day, nearly continuous triangular route, first covering the 42 miles from my front door in Silverton down past Vallecito Reservoir on day 1, running and fishing 29 miles with a small group of friends up the Piños River to the Rio Grande Reservoir on day 2, before running the 33 miles back to Silverton the third day. Finally, I capped an amazing autumn by traveling to China for the Ultra-Tour Mount Siguniang, with fun mountain (and cultural) adventuring before the race and the most challenging 67 miler I’ll ever run thanks to a snowstorm that blew in the night of the race. I’ve previously shared my Mount Siguniang experience.

Mount Siguniang and Boardwalk

A view of Mount Siguniang over Changping Valley. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Early last month, with racing off my radar since last winter, I headed out for non-race 100-mile outing for the first time. Inspired by the Socially Distanced Flyathlon Challenge put on by the freshwater conservation non-profit Running Rivers, I initially decided to run as far as I could in a day while catching a fish along the way. That evolved into a more entertaining plan of trying to finish the same organization’s standing Troutman challenge–which requires running at least a marathon, climbing at least 3,000′, catching the Colorado grand slam of trout (a brook, a brown, a cutthroat, and a rainbow trout), and drinking a 12% beer all within 12 hours–as part of my 100-mile effort. In the end, I ended up covering the 100 miles while enjoying the journey along the way from the many peaceful hours of road running along the Arkansas River through the night to the challenges of trying to catch four species of trout in the Chalk Creek drainage to finishing out my first solo 100 miler on night two. You can read more about my Troutman 100 adventure in a great article in the Durango Herald (and more about combining running and fly fishing here).

Bryon Powell - Wright's Lake

Me fly fishing Wright’s Lake during my Troutman 100 attempt. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Today, in the wake of the Troutman 100 and with nothing on my race or adventure calendar, I find my motivation to train flagging as autumn progresses. I would guess that if I looked back closely at my logs that this, too, is part of my running’s personal rhythm. A lull, sometimes intentional, sometimes not that follows seasons of racing and adventure gives space for mental, physical, and motivational recovery before new races and adventures provide a spark for renewed training down the road even if I have no idea what those will be in today’s uncertain environment. That said, if I had to guess, sometime around October 2021, I’ll head out for an incredible adventure. I can’t wait to see what it’ll be!

Call for Comments

  • Does your running life or your life more generally have an annual rhythm? If so, what does it look like?
  • How has the rhythm of your life changed over the years?

There are 2 comments

  1. Oliver Tausend

    I usually planned with two peaks in the year, one in spring and one in autumn. For some reason, spring races (in March or April) didn‘t work out well because, for whatever reason, preparing for them in winter often left me either injured or sick in the build-up to the race. So more often than not, my race season only started in May or even June. Race preparation in summer for events in fall worked better, I‘ve never had to cancel a race in summer or autumn due to injury or sickness. My alltime highlight in autumn was the Endurance Trail at the Festival des Templiers in Millau, France in october 2017, which by the way got cancelled this years due to the massive SARS-Cov2 resurgence in all of France. In this Covid-year, I didn‘t do any races at all, the first one in April got cancelled and I decided to not race in October although the event was maintained. Not racing allowed me to run all year without any injury break, I just fell sick once in July, a non-Covid-19 related infectious disease of unknown origin. Just a break of 10 days followed by a return to sport that proved more tedious than expected however. At the end of the day, I actually enjoyed a race-free year by discovering new trails in my local area and a little bit further away. I am wondering if I want to race again at all.

  2. David W

    The crisp air and shorter days call me from the roads to the trails every year around Thanksgiving – mentally triggering the start of the training “season.” Paradoxical how the most beautiful time of year on the trails in Kentucky (winter) attracts the least traffic. Perfect for the typical ultravert type – alone with our inner dialogue in nature’s supreme beauty, finding joy and fulfillment in a practice most others wouldn’t give a thought to.

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