A Tough Year on the Road, and Yet Much to be Thankful For

My family welcomed my second nephew to the world today. He is an early Thanksgiving gift and a much-welcomed addition to a length list of reasons to be thankful.

This time of year always brings to mind those things I am grateful for and that time for reflection extends to my running. In ways large and small running has enhanced my life. It has made me fitter, more disciplined, and brought me the joys of crossing finish lines.

Every year I am grateful for the support my family continually supplies for my running efforts. They have scheduled meals around my training, shifted vacation plans, and turned out to support my races. Running may be a solo affair but no person ever runs alone.

Running introduced me to my podcast co-host and led to us just completing our first year together discussing all things running. (You should check it out — search Rust Belt Running on most major podcast platforms.)

Running led me to want to be a better, healthier cook. It led me to gardening. It made me want to explore northeast Ohio’s many Metroparks and the Cuyahoga Valley in search of new paths to run. In the process I discovered a love of hiking. I’m grateful for it all.

Running made me a better coach. Thrust back into the struggles of being an athlete chasing goals, I was reminded of how hard it can be for an athlete to see the winding road of progress, to overcome plateaus, to trust that all this work is going to build toward something. It made me more patient when my players struggled and more understanding of how individual moments fit together into a larger puzzle.

Running helped me re-discover my purpose. Leaving teaching five years ago was, and remains, the best decision I could have made for my life. What I could not foresee was the devastation that would ensue when I lost my sense of purpose. The continual push to become a better runner helped me find new purpose. In coaching myself I found that I enjoyed coaching others, that I could help others looking to meet their fitness goals in the same way I was helping myself meet my running goals. I look forward to doing it on a larger scale.

It has brought me my share of disappointments, finish lines I’ve stumbled across and training runs I’ve found myself limping through. Yet I cherish even those memories. It is part of the experience. Foundations crack and it has been through those repairs that I’ve built myself into a better, stronger, more resilient runner.

That is the story of this year. Stumbling and limping, aches and pains. It is the year that wasn’t. Even then I am grateful. In lamenting that I was not where I wanted to be I learned the value of being ok with exactly where I am. Do I want to be back to being the runner I was on Saint Patrick’s Day, clicking through 15 hilly miles, feeling like I could take on the world? Absolutely. I am, however, enjoying that old feeling of having weary legs, of slowly but surely building up mileage, of laying a foundation for greater things to come. I run now, not with my mind on what I hope is coming but rather on what is, in this moment, right now. With this mindset every run, no matter how small, is a gift.

The large goals remain. I hope for another marathon PR next year. I hope for a BQ and a third straight year of putting my name in the hopper for Boston. It will be my tenth year of lacing up my shoes and heading out the door. If the first nine have taught me anything it is that the unexpected will happen. There will be moments of unadulterated joy and moments of pain and sorrow.

I will be grateful for them all.

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