On winter solstice morning (Dec. 21), I headed out for a run. The sun was out, which made me forget the chill in the air. I thought back to a year earlier, when I was running an improvised speed workout in Kirkland’s secluded Watershed Park as I wrapped up my training for the January 2012 Houston Marathon. I didn’t know what to expect for the rest of 2012.
I did have some goals for 2012. I wanted to run 2,000 miles for the year. I’d moved up to nearly 40 miles per week in recent years and thought this would be a good year-long goal.
A group of friends planned to run a dozen marathons in 2012 (“12 in ‘12”), but while I was intrigued by the prospect of a marathon per month, I wasn’t sure if I could sustain the level of commitment needed to make that my goal. I spend seven to eight hours running most weeks. I run to relax. It needs to be fun, not just about ticking the miles off in pursuit of goals.
Now when I look back on my year in running, a series of stories flash through my mind:
- Seeing a pajama-clad runner elbow a kid aside when they were both vying for the last chocolate chip cookie at the cookie bar – an excellent teach- able moment in delayed gratification from the night after running the Houston Marathon.
- Running a race with my friend as she hit a new PR. There’s nothing better than seeing someone surprise themselves in such a nice way.
- Talking with my daughter about my pre-race jitters before running the Chuckanut 50K in Bellingham – my first 50K in more than two years. No matter how many of these ultras I do, there’s still always an element of doubt to running them. My daughter, an aspiring singer and actress, told me: “Dad, that’s exactly how I feel when I perform.” The next day, as I ran down a narrow trail in the snow next to a 200 foot drop-off, I drew inspiration from her courage and determination as she chases her own dreams.
- Quietly hopping onto the “12 in ’12” bandwagon in my own way, by running three long races on three consecutive weekends. I began by spending some quality hours with friends running in the Redmond Watershed 12 Hour race, as several of them hit the 50-mile run mark for the first time. The next week- end I had an excellent time running a race in Soaring Eagle Park. On the third weekend, I completed the Green River Marathon again and enjoyed the recovery with friends at Alki Point, savoring oysters and sunshine.
- Reading the course photographer’s blog post from the Taylor Mountain 50k in June, when he wrote that there was so much bear scat on the trails that he sang and clapped loudly as he hiked out to take pictures. I discovered this after I’d already run silently and obliviously three times around the course alone, without even thinking about what I was stepping through.
- Passing mile 30 at the Lord Hill 50k in July, when the guy I was running with jumped up and clicked his heels for the photographer. I can’t do that, even before running.
- Sharing dinner with my friend and fellow Marathon Maniac Bridget Waldron Steele a couple of nights before the Pike’s Peak marathon. I learned that when you run above the tree-line, that’s where you earn your “big girl panties.” Spot on! Sadly, we lost Bridget just six weeks later to breast cancer – may she run in peace.
- Running Pike’s Peak two days after my talk with Bridget and learning how hard it is to run when you can’t see the trail in front of you.
- Running the Middle Fork 50k in September and making the mistake of thinking it would be easy, since nothing could be as difficult as Pike’s Peak. Crossing the river on a log 12 feet above rushing water was not easy.
- Running the marathon at Fort Steilacoom in October with my friend Theresa, making the miles fly by. We talked about life, kids, family and all sorts of great stuff.
- Experiencing the Grand Ridge 50K as it threw a bit of everything at runners this year, including dry, balmy weather that turned to cold, hard rain. My favorite part was running part of the way with a young XC runner doing his first marathon. He was feeling the late-mile pain as we climbed back up the ridge at mile 22. He’d already done something remarkable just by at- tempting a trail marathon, but he also managed to muster a great kick to the finish. Awesome!
- Getting to share many miles of the Wattle Waddle on Thanksgiving Day with our esteemed newsletter editor, Bob Wismer. We talked about family, running dreams and politics. As always, he was great company!
As I ran seven miles on that sunny Solstice morning in December, these memories streamed through my head. I’ll always have running memories like these, even after the race shirts are gone. Each time I rounded a corner on the familiar route, I thought about when I covered the same ground with friends, and sometime alone with just my thoughts.
As I finished, I clicked off mile 2000 for the year. Goals met, dreams chased, and miles covered.
pictures by marathonfoto.com, Steve Sanders, and a waitress in Houston