When Not to Fight

Bryon’s thoughts on not letting a goal get in the way of enjoying one’s running… or, more importantly, one’s life.

By on June 7, 2017 | 16 comments

This is me throwing in the towel. It’s me waving the white flag. At this point, keeping the fight going to try to be ready my main running goal for the year—to run a fast Leadville 100 Mile—in two and a half months isn’t worth it. And it’s hurting me as a person.

Sure, I put in plenty of time and effort over the winter and early spring from which I’d hoped to ramp up into heavy training this spring, but those are sunk costs. They don’t matter in the moment, nor in the future. What matters more is taking care of myself as a person. At the moment, I’m frayed mentally, emotionally, and physically. I accept this. I am fragile. I am human. I am a person, not just a runner.

For the past month, I’ve kept what was once “hope” alive that I’d overcome a collection of personal impediments—personal, professional, locational, and physical—-and that my daily runs would eventually improve such that I got some training mojo back. It never happened. And what was once “hope” transformed into whatever the opposite of hope is. Dread? Despair, perhaps?

Regardless of the label, heading out for a run everyday with this want/need/hope of turning the corner to strong training without that ever coming became its own negative-feedback loop. Drained runs led to more negativity and stress leading to more bad runs. Knowing that my personal situation won’t change for the positive over the next month only further cultivated a sense of hopelessness. I don’t need that. I don’t want that. I won’t have that. I’m throwing off my self-imposed yoke. I am no longer training for the Leadville 100. **Exhale** Ahhh. That feels good.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll likely continue to run everyday, but for myself, because I want to, without any purpose. It’s my hope that the dread, the hopelessness, the frustration will quickly fade into the past and that my running will once again be my own in the moment.

Somehow, I also feel confident that I can keep some running dreams alive and stoke new ones during this time. On the 0.1% that I make it off the Hardrock 100 Mile waitlist, you bet I’ll smile my way around those San Juan Mountains in less than perfect shape. Likewise, I’ve got a multitude of big dreams around my home in Utah’s canyon county that I expect to keep percolating all summer and remain a possibility for next winter no matter what my summer (and my summer’s training) look like. Heck, there’s still a chance that I’ll pin on a number to run from Leadville to Winfield and back in late August,* but that’s off my mind for the time being.

Now, that’s not to say I’ll move forward while creating a veil of ignorance behind me. There are plenty of great lessons and reminders in my past month or two and, over the coming months, I’ll keep pondering what I could have done differently to set myself up for success. I’m not sure how valuable it is to share some of my initial thoughts, as they’re specific to me, but they include: continuous life on the road is incompatible with focused training, major rehab (currently need for my Achilles) ain’t happening on the road, I must actively manage all work stress and avoid existential work stress while training for a focus race, and I should skip the 100-mile training race when I’m likely to need training momentum to get me through tough times. I’ve applied some of these lessons in the past and hope to keep all in mind in the future, as I learn and grow from my experiences.

Often a big running goal fosters excitement, drive, and purpose in me. Not this time, in this situation. It’s time to rid myself of that negativity-inducing goal, focus on the fun in my runs, and wait for that next spark to rekindle a big running dream.

Happy trails,

* Just last month, I wrote about the positives of a casual 100 miler, and I can still see myself running plenty of casual 100s in the future. In fact, I’ve got a whole list of them in my head… but that wasn’t my intent when I signed up for Leadville this year.

Call for Comments

  • When have you decided running or running goals were negatively affecting you or getting in the way of life?
  • How have you changed your running or your life to minimize those negative effects or make your life and running more compatible?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.