8 races that'll inspire you to run again
Gorgeous half marathons in California, Maine, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming + the Jordan desert; Getting (and staying) motivated, and the perils of bad advice
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Good afternoon, my friends! ☀️ When I woke up this morning, I was going to write to you about motivation, largely to exhort myself to get out there more and because I know this time of year, it can be reallyreallyreally hard to motivate ourselves to run.
But then I came across this fascinating post by Dr. Sabrina Little, a philosophy professor and elite runner who has run for Team USA and who also coaches runners, often students at the university where she teaches.
Her message? That each of us are special and unique, with our own individual challenges and obstacles to overcome:
“There is something I learned while coaching, which seems obvious now. It was that, while I had the same goals for everyone on the team — to get faster, to become people of good character, and to have fun in the process — I could not coach them all in the same way to reach these goals.
Some of them were inclined toward half-heartedness, so I spoke firmly and pressed them to do more. Some of them were industrious, so I reminded them to rest. If some athletes mentioned discomfort, I encouraged them to be tough and to press through. If others mentioned discomfort, I assumed that something had gone terribly awry, and I addressed the problem immediately.
We are all warped boards, inclined toward manifold and often opposing vices, so the same guidance does not work for all of us. Again, I think this is fairly obvious. But the way New Year advice is often doled out, I might think there is only one kind of person in the world receiving it.”
This blew me away, to put it mildly. (Of course, it’s something I already knew, or thought I did. But sometimes the most simple, obvious things are what takes us the longest to learn.)
Don’t get me wrong. Most advice people give, especially about running, is no doubt well-intentioned. Trouble, though, comes when you try to apply advice that would never work for someone in your shoes.
For example: if you’re a parent of multiple small children who also works, you’re going to have a hard time applying most of the training advice you’ll find. It’s just not designed for you — it’s designed for someone with abundant free time.
And if you’re someone who’s already pushing themselves hard, running dozens of miles a week, you don’t really need to hear a suggestion that you need to work harder, do you?
Most of us fall somewhere in between these two poles. (And if you weren’t motivated at all, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now!)
One thing many of us struggle with, I know, is maintaining our enthusiasm to get out there. Even when we start with big goals and dreams, running can become a grind — especially when we get into longer distances.
When this happens to me, one thing I’ve found that works is switching things up: if I’m running longer distances, switch to shorter distances. If I’m running the same thing every time I run, try a different place, a different distance, a different time of day.
What have you found that works for you?
Quote of the week
Races that’ll inspire you to run again
Cody, Wyo. | Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021
When you run the streets of this city out on the edge of the Bighorn Basin in northwestern Wyoming, you’ll experience the feel of the Old West and what it must have been like for the characters who lived in the era of “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the legendary scout, soldier and showman for whom this town of just over 9,500 is named. The city itself is mostly flat — so the elevation changes little during the race — but it’s surrounded by mountains and lies just a short drive from the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
$70 and up | Sign up here
Heber City, Utah | Friday, April 30 - Saturday, May 1, 2021
Like its counterpart events in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, this all-new marathon and half from Revel Races follows an all-downhill course through Utah’s stunningly beautiful Wasatch Mountains, starting at just over 6,200 feet above sea level and finishing near the shore of the Deer Creek Reservoir, at just over 5,400 feet. Along the way, you’ll take in “the fresh scent of towering pines, glimpses of mountain wildlife, and the babbling of small creeks,” organizers say, as you make your way through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. You’ll see mountain peaks off in the distance too and be surrounded by a small field — the event is limited to 499 entrants per day (over two days). It’s also a Boston Marathon qualifier.
$199 and up | Sign up here
Mouth of Wilson, Va. | Sunday, May 2, 2021
A challenging yet jaw-droppingly scenic run through the 4,500-acre Grayson Highlands State Park in southern Virginia, where you get to run with the wild ponies that live high up in the mountains near the Virginia-North Carolina border. You’ll run the trails and along the ridgelines within the park, in view of 5,000-ft.-high peaks as well as waterfalls and overlooks (and where, if you want to, you can access the Appalachian Trail). The race often sells out quickly, but there were still spots remaining in the half marathon and 50K when I wrote these words.
$95 and up | Sign up here
Petra, Jordan | Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021
One of a series of races that take place in extraordinary locations around the world — like the Great Wall of China, Myanmar’s Bagan Temple and South Africa’s Entabeni Game Reserve — this marathon begins at a location that will be very familiar if you’ve ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Starting from the famous carved pink sandstone at the entrance to Petra, which dates back to around 9,000 B.C.E., you’ll run through the desert of this part of southern Jordan, where “you will find yourself surrounded with tombs, caves and monasteries carved in the mountainsides,” the organizers say. While there are some challenging climbs along the route — which features a combination of sand, paved and gravel roads — the final few miles are a steady downhill to the finish.
$995 and up | Sign up here
Waldoboro, Maine | Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021
“If you finish, you get a beer,” say the organizers of this early fall race, which they claim is the toughest road half marathon in New England thanks to the more than 1,400 feet of elevation change they packed into the 13.1 miles of this race. Almost half the course is run uphill, they add, through this scenic town of just over 5,000 souls along the banks of the Medomak River near the Maine coastline. A couple of things you should know about it — there are no bands, no race expo, no volunteers out on the course, and not even any water stations; also, you’ll need to qualify for it by running a half marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes within the past two years. “We always say that if you can do well in Waldoboro, everywhere else is easy.”
$20 and up | Sign up here
Stowe, Vt. | October 2021
This one’s for the adventurous runner — from the starting line to the highest point in the race, you’ll climb roughly 1,000 feet to the top of Round Top Mountain along the trails of Vermont’s Green Mountains. The race starts and finishes at the 2,500-acre Trapp Family Lodge, and features winding trails through the mountain forests as well as along grassy paths through wide-open meadows, with views of the mountains in the distance. There are also some “some steep scrambling segments,” organizers add, noting that there’s about 1,900 feet of overall elevation gain throughout your 13.1 miles — which you’ll run once for the half marathon and twice for the full.
TBA | Sign up here
Gaylord, Mich. | Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021
A beautiful fall run through Michigan’s Treetops Resort, a year-round resort known for its 81 holes of golf in the spring and summer and its skiing in winter. You’ll start the race at one of the resort’s golf clubhouses and from there run alongside the fairways of several holes on the course, before heading into the forests of the Headwaters Land Conservancy, where you’ll get to run along the banks of the Sturgeon River. Later miles run through the forests of the wilderness area known as Project Nature, along “challenging climbs up to high ridges overlooking the river valley as well as some fast sections along dirt forest road.”
$75 and up | Sign up here
Malibu, Calif. | Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021
A dazzlingly beautiful route along Southern California’s Pacific Coast Highway. Following an out-and-back course that starts and finishes at Zuma Beach, a famous spot along the PCH that has appeared in many movies and television shows, the race starts near sea level and climbs nearly 200 feet over the first few miles (which you’ll descend on the way back to the finish). You’ll have views of the waves crashing along the shore for the entire route, with (most likely) cloudless skies and temperatures between the mid-50s and the mid-60s.
$89 and up | Sign up here
A song to run to today
Words to run by
“Too many people I meet believe that you can sit in a chair and be given motivation. With exercise and fitness, you get it by doing. The mental qualities you need are all linked like a chain. If you give exercise a try and see results, even if it’s as simple as feeling good that you get out the door, you’ll become motivated to repeat the exercise. Seeing results is inspiring.”