Maybe you don't need a 'why'
Plus 6 races you'll love running in Arkansas, California, Curaçao, New York, Texas + Washington, D.C.
Last night, I heard one of the most interesting — and counter-intuitive — things I’ve ever heard anyone say.
It came in a weekly discussion group I’m a part of, which attracts people from all different age groups. Each week, we have a selection of books we read from, and then get together on Tuesday nights to discuss them. I love it because it gives each of us a chance to connect, and to stop and reflect in a way that the everyday busy-ness of life just doesn’t allow.
We’re just starting this year’s class — which meets, like a school year, from September through May — and our topic of discussion last night was what our goals were for this year, what we hoped to get out of the class.
My answer was essentially the same as the one I gave last year when I started the class: to learn, to be surprised, and to find out things I didn’t expect from the material we’re reading. (I’m kind of a read-for-reading’s sake person, I read almost purely for enjoyment.)
A couple of other people in the class, however, had very different answers. They were in their 70s and 80s, and they said they were doing a kind of searching through our reading and conversation, and that they were hoping to find their purpose in life.
To say this floored me is an understatement. (And probably reveals my own naiveté.)
Yet it’s also comforting, as this question is one I’ve always thought I needed a definitive answer to. And if I didn’t have one, that was something to feel ashamed of, or at least that I should pretend I knew the answer to it. But if they’re still searching for answers at their age, that means it’s okay for me still to be searching too, right?
I’ve read many times that to get the most from running, we need to know our “why” — meaning, we need to know the reason we’re running, the reason we put in all the miles of training we do. That we need to have a clearly defined purpose before we set out on this road.
But, what if that’s wrong? Or not exactly wrong, but incomplete? What if it’s perfectly okay not to know your “why,” and to simply wish to enjoy yourself out on the run, no matter how fast or slow you run?
I stumbled across this post on Twitter recently, and it’s stuck in my mind ever since. It’s not about running specifically, but it can apply in lots of areas of life, I think:
I hesitated for a moment before including the tweet here, as that ending kicker — “… until you die” — feels like a bit of a downer. But I still love the sentiment she’s trying to get across, that it’s perfectly fine — in fact it can be wonderful — to live a life that isn’t so burdened by the pursuit of achievement, status, etc., that you forget to stop and smell the roses sometimes.
What if a beautiful run through a place you love is achievement enough? What if a run through the trails of your favorite park is the art you’re trying to create, instead of an always-faster time?
Some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met are the ones who never quite figured out what to do with their lives, but who did figure out how to enjoy them. Have you had that experience too?
I’d love to hear your thoughts — feel free to share in the comments, or in reply back to me. Either way is great 😃
As always, hope your week is going great and your runs are too — keep in touch!
Races you’ll love running
Poughkeepsie, N.Y. | Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021
Just over one-and-a-quarter miles across the Hudson River between the towns of Poughkeepsie and Highland, N.Y., the footbridge known as the “Walkway Over the Hudson” will be part of this fast, flat course you’ll get to run under miles and miles of dense tree cover in New York’s Hudson Valley region. The shade comes from the trees along the Dutchess Rail Trail, on whose tracks the old Central New England Railway rambled and clattered along starting back in 1892. The out-and-back race is run mostly on asphalt-surface trails, with some hard-packed sand, and is mostly flat throughout.
$65 and up | Sign up here
Washington, D.C. | Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021
One in a series of races held along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, the trail that lies alongside the 180-plus-mile-long canal by the same name and parallels the Potomac River near our nation’s capital. The race begins in Georgetown next to the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and from there heads west and north along the canal, whose history dates back to the late 1820s as a way to transport coal from the Allegheny Mountains of western Maryland. With the exception of a few very minor hilly stretches, the terrain for the race is pancake-flat.
$60 and up | Sign up here
Hot Springs, Ark. | Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021
You’ll run up to (and down from) the peaks of the Ouachita Mountains inside Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park at this autumn race, which takes place just after the leaves here have turned brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange. Named for the numerous hot springs in the area that have drawn visitors from around the country for more than a century, the park boasts that it’s the oldest unit in the National Park Service, predating the dedication of Yellowstone by four decades. Be ready for some climbs — you’ll gain about 500 feet between the starting line at the first peak around the 4th mile marker, and then descend nearly 400 feet before climbing again to reach the second peak, around mile 10.
$65 and up | Sign up here
Willemstad, Curaçao | Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021
You’re likely to be accompanied by the sounds of roosters crowing, the wagging tails of stray dogs, and people greeting you in languages you won’t recognize at this late fall race along the streets of Curaçao’s capital city, at a time of the year when it’s still likely to be pretty hot and humid. So while it’s not the greatest race to get a PR, it offers up spectacular scenery from the island’s brightly colored homes and tree-filled neighborhoods to the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, here on this former Dutch colony that lies about 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela.
$55 and up | Sign up here
Bend, Texas | Friday, Dec. 3 - Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021
Named for the rock formation commonly found here in southwest Texas, this trail race unfolds through Colorado Bend State Park, a place known for its waterfalls, caves and plentiful trails, about a two-hour drive from Austin. You’ll have your choice of a half marathon, 50K, 100K or 150K races, as well as a youth trail run for kids age 12 and under. Organizers say the route is designed to offer runners “a beautiful and difficult trail reality,” adding that, “like the Tinaja out in the wild, we hope this weekend provides you with something magnificent...giving you something you need.”
$80 and up | Sign up here
Carlsbad, Calif. | Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022
“There are plenty of rolling hills but it's one of the most beautiful courses I've ever run,” says our friend Hollie Sick, a veteran runner who’s run dozens of half marathons across the country. This race’s signature is sun and surf, with waves crashing alongside the shore for much of the course, which unfolds along the Pacific Coast Highway. “Let's face it,” Hollie adds. “The sunshine and 50-plus-degree weather [on the West Coast] is far more enticing than running through the cold, snow, ice, and who knows what on the East.”
$129 and up | Sign up here
Words to run by
“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”
— Dorothy Day