Ultrarunning Skill #1: Persistence

AJWs Taproom[Author’s Note: This is the first in a series of five columns on meta-cognitive skills and their role in running, education, and life. My introductory piece last week invited you to share your stories, too. You can still share your thoughts by commenting on this article or by emailing me at ajwstaproom@irunfar.com.]

In response to last week’s column summarizing the five meta-cognitive skills characteristic of “schools of the future,” I received a slew of correspondence on these skills from a wide variety of iRunFar readers. These ruminations on running, education, and life represented a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions and, in many ways, presented me with a cross section of the populous that currently has found a home in this quirky, wholesome, deeply meaningful thing we call ultrarunning. Of all the notes I received, one of the most compelling, at least in the realm of this week’s theme, persistence, came from Vermont ultrarunner and father Michael Vooris.

Michael and his wife, Sarah, are the parents of two daughters, Regan (5) and Maren (2). Two weeks after her birth, Regan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. From the moment Michael received the phone call from the doctor with that diagnosis, he knew that it would be essential for him to model a healthy lifestyle for Regan. After looking around a bit, he decided, quite spontaneously, to become a runner. Then, over a period of two years, Michael went from not being able to run continuously for one mile to finishing a 33 miler across the Vermont countryside.

Michael Sarah Regan and Maren Vooris.

Michael, Sarah, Regan, and Maren Vooris. All photos courtesy of Michael Vooris.

As he has become a runner, Michael says, “Running has become a teacher for me. When I started running after Regan’s diagnosis, I could not imagine how I would need these essential characteristics but now I realize I need them everyday. I need them to take care of my daughters and to take care of myself.”

Michael has realized, over the last few years, that running provides him with a platform upon which to build his persistence. Certainly, like all of us, he has good days and bad days. But the way he has learned to persist has given him a clear path to the future, a future filled with promise, hope, and success.

Regan and Maren Vooris

Regan and Maren on the run.

“Through running, I’ve learned that when I think I’m exhausted, I still have a vast reserve of energy and ability upon which to draw. I simply have to persist. Through running, I’ve learned that when I hit a low point and things seem hopeless, that if I just persist things often get better.”

In addition to providing the necessary attitude adjustment and general focus required in a complex life, Michael has also come to realize that there is a certain elegance and grace in the simple act of running, “The seemingly mundane act of putting one foot in front of the other, even when it deeply hurts and I want to give up, is perhaps the most profound thing I can do in running and, more importantly, in life.”

Regan Vooris

Regan persists, too.

Bottoms up!

 AJW’s Beer of the Week

Long Trail Brewing - HibernatorThe week’s Beer of the Week comes from Long Trail Brewing Company in Woodstock, Vermont. Their Hibernator is an outstanding winter session beer. They call it an unfiltered Scottish Ale and it drinks like an Amber. If there were such a thing as “comfort beer,” this would be it.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • iRunFar’s articles this week have had a heavy focus on the head-game part of running, from Andrew Titus’s Watching Matt’s Feet to Geoff Roes’s Is Running Selfish? to Michael Vooris’s story here. Some people would probably say that, for them, the mental benefits of running outweigh the physical benefits. Are you one of those people and how have you discovered this?
  • Do you have an example of how, like Michael Vooris, persisting on the run has shown you that you can persist in life, too?