As we near the end of the calendar year, many people are reflecting on what 2016 meant to them. For me, 2016 was many things, but perhaps more than anything else, it was the year when I fully acknowledged just how much running means to me. For years, people would tell me that I was obsessed with running and I would deny it. This year, I realized that running is not just something I do, but an essential part of who I am.
I belong to many running groups on social media, and this week, two of them asked us to reflect on, and share about, our favorite running moments from the past year. While I love this exercise, thinking back over my year of running made me realize that it is impossible for me to choose just one great running-related memory. There are so many good ones for many different reasons. I therefore give you a list of ten of my favorite running memories from 2016 (in no particular order):
Hyner 25K – Hyner is intense. The hills are no joke. Two miles into the race I found myself thinking, “Why did I do this? I’m never going to finish.” I don’t know that I’ve ever been so uncomfortable, so frequently in a race. And yet, I not only finished, but far exceeded my expectations. Hyner was a great reminder that it’s important to step outside your comfort zone.
February 19th training run – Thank goodness for running partners who show up. It was 18 degrees at the start, and after 4 hours of running, the temperature had only risen to 24. I don’t think I ever warmed up, and I definitely never felt good. But we got it done. This run redefined the temperature limits for me. As with many difficult experiences, there was immense satisfaction in having survived it once it was over.
Worlds End Course Preview – I was so intimidated at the thought of the Worlds End 50K that I convinced two friends to join me for the course preview run last January. We hopped in the car at 5:00 on a Saturday morning for the 3-hour drive to Worlds End State Park. We arrived at a creek covered in ice and a chilly 24 degrees. Traversing the trails was challenging due to the frozen leaves and the unmarked course, but it was a dream-like experience. We crossed over numerous frozen creeks with water flowing underneath. We somehow managed to keep our footing despite the sneaky ice hidden along the way. More than anything, we were reminded of the power of time spent in nature with good friends.
Ragnar Appalachians – 30 miles of trails over 36 hours in mid-August. The weather was lousy, the course was tough, and my middle-of-the-night run was the hardest thing I’ve ever slogged through. I had the most incredible teammates, however, and they made the entire weekend such an incredible experience. I’m already looking forward to our next race together.
Hill repeats – This was the year that I truly embraced hill repeats, running them on the trails with friends, and around my neighborhood. The sense of accomplishment that comes after a good hill workout is definitely worth the effort you expel in the moment.
Dirty German 25K – The special part of this race wasn’t so much the race itself, as the chance to reconnect with Jen. After a winter of health problems for her, we barely spoke, let alone ran together. This race marked a success for her, as it proved that she is more resilient than she realized. It also reminded both of us just how much we cherish our friendship, and that the miles tend to fly by when you have good company.
Worlds End 50K – This was far and away the hardest course I’ve ever run, and I ran almost the entire race solo, which is an experience I haven’t had in awhile. Despite that, it was my favorite race of the year. Worlds End State Park is a beautiful spot, the race course was well-designed, and the aid stations were incredible. I learned so much about myself in this race.
Ragnar Ambassador – Just after I returned from running Ragnar Appalachians, I received an email that I was invited to become a Ragnar Ambassador. I can’t explain how excited I was to have the opportunity to represent this awesome racing series. In the intervening months, I had the chance to discuss Ragnar with runners at races, race expos, and running stores. It’s so much fun and I can’t wait to run Ragnar PA next June!
Trails runs with my girls – Almost exactly 2 years ago, I was invited to join a trail run with a group of ladies on New Year’s Day. What was a group of strangers has turned into an incredible group of friends. We meet up in all types of weather, for runs both short and long, and time spent with them always makes my day better. They’ve truly brought joy to the training process.
Passing the torch to the next generation – Just a few weeks ago, my kids joined me for their first official trail run. We covered just over 3 miles in my favorite training spot, and as we sped down one of the hills, my daughter called out, “I can see why you love this!” Sharing something I love so much with two of my favorite people is more special than I can possibly describe.
Thinking back on all of these incredible memories reminds me of how blessed I am to have running in my life. I can’t wait for a new year of memories to begin!
What were your favorite running moments of 2016? Leave me some thoughts in the comments below.