My favorites from 2020

Lessons I've learned on self-confidence, managing mood, running motivation, changing habits + more

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

— Pablo Picasso


I have complex feelings about the year that’s (almost!) passed, as I’m sure you do. But one thing I know for sure is how humbled, amazed and honored I am by what we’ve all built together here at The Half Marathoner community these past few years, and especially this year.

The discussions we have, the emails I’ve received from you, and the stories you’ve shared with me on your struggles this year, and how you’ve tried to overcome them — and keep your spirits up — have inspired me more than you know.

Every week, I sit down to my laptop with anticipation — a little (or a lot!) of nervous energy at trying to come up with the right topic for the week, but also a lot of excitement about what I’ll hear from you in response. That’s always the highlight for me, and please don’t ever stop writing in, or feel like you can’t — I love hearing from each and every one of you.

I hope you enjoy this selection of what I think are some of our best pieces this year. Writing to you, and running with you (even if it’s only virtually) has been a saving grace for me this year — as well as the pleasure of working with amazing writers like Carissa Liebowitz, Amanda Loudin and Hollie Sick.

Happy new year to each and every one of you — I hope 2021 brings you (and all of us) all the good news we’re hoping for.

See you next year! 🎉🍾🥳

Your friend,

— Terrell

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Finding meaning in running when life gets weird

By Terrell Johnson | March 18, 2020

The true scope of coronavirus pandemic was just starting to come into view when I wrote this, and I tried to take lessons from the famous words Viktor Frankl wrote in his landmark book Man’s Search for Meaning: “When we are no longer able to change a situation ... we are challenged to change ourselves.”

How to use running to improve your mood

By Terrell Johnson | June 10, 2020

Four simple lessons I learned from reading Scott Douglas’s Running Is My Therapy, a deep dive into how strenuous exercise can change our brains for the better. I learned a lot from Douglas’s account of his own battles with depression, and how running has helped him live a life that’s “more expansive, open, and engaged; less sour, dismissive, and despondent.”

What I learned about running motivation from James Clear’s ‘Atomic Habits’

By Terrell Johnson | June 24, 2020

If you’re like me, this year has been a tough one to stay motivated to run. This summer, reading Clear’s book helped me re-think my own approach to getting out there and helped me clear away things that had been blocking me in my own mind. At its bedrock, the book’s core idea is that “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

5 things Deena Kastor taught me in ‘Let Your Mind Run’

By Terrell Johnson | July 1, 2020

Ever read a book that tugs at your sleeve no matter how long it’s been since you read it? That was my experience with this two-year-old book by Kastor, who became an Olympic medalist and world record-holding runner, but who also struggled with self-doubt throughout her long career in running. I learned so much from her.

‘Everyone will face this’

By Amanda Loudin | August 12, 2020

On the inevitability of aging for runners, and learning to adjust our expectations. “It doesn’t mean you have to run without goals… But my biggest change is that I’m kinder to myself these days. Even if I don’t reach a goal, it doesn’t invalidate what I’m doing. I still love running and can still experience joy from it.”

5 things I’ve learned from my summer of running

By Hollie Sick | August 19, 2020

“If you asked me on January 1 how I thought running in 2020 would be, I would say lots of fast races.” That’s what we all thought, right? In this look at how she had to adapt to the same things we all did this year, our longtime writer Hollie Sick shares how she filled the void — with running challenges and different goals.

Running Boston... in Georgia

By Carissa Liebowitz | September 16, 2020

As we all know by now, thousands of races had to be cancelled due to Covid, which led to a huge boom in virtual events. Our longtime writer Carissa Liebowitz ran the virtual Boston Marathon on trails near where we live in Atlanta this summer, and said the experience was… different. “Starting a marathon by yourself is weird. There is no fanfare to begin, no other runners nervously milling about, no countdown to a specific time. When you’re ready, you just go.”

Changing habits

By Terrell Johnson | September 30, 2020

Charles Duhigg’s 2012 book The Power of Habit is one I find myself returning to again and again, even all these years later. The story he tells as the book opens, of a 34-year-old woman named Lisa Allen, still amazes me even now. “Since she was 16, she'd smoked, drank and struggled with obesity. She could barely hold a job for less than a year, and she'd accumulated more than $10,000 in credit card debt.” But changing what Duhigg calls a keystone habit, she was able to leave all that behind.

Tuning in (and out) to yourself on the run

By Amanda Loudin | October 7, 2020

How the legendary obstacle racer Amelia Boone learned when to listen closely to what her body was trying to tell her on a run, and when to tune it out. “I thought it was important to focus on how I was feeling instead of just ignoring pain and finishing runs… But I became so in tune with my body that I was overthinking every step and driving myself crazy.”

What Jesse Owens can teach us

By Terrell Johnson | November 11, 2020

Reading a little history this summer introduced me to stories I’d never known about people I thought I knew everything about. It was fascinating to learn this story about Olympian Jesse Owens and the friendship he developed with one of his German competitors at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and how it survived the heat of competition and world war.

‘Don’t make a fault of a virtue’

By Terrell Johnson | December 24, 2020

My old college English professor had a famous saying about taking a good thing too far: “you can make a fault of a virtue, you know.” In this essay from last week, I shared how I was inspired by stories from sources as varied as a New York Times journalist (on turning a passion for running into a job) and the comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

Podcasts, discussions + more

We held some really fun live discussions this year, during which I learned a lot too — like this one Hollie hosted on everything you wanted to know about running shoes, this one (which was amazing) in which we shared where we are in the world, and one on the best piece of running advice you’ve ever received.

I had some really fun conversations with coaches, authors (and even a running legend) this year, including Wes Judd, Bart Yasso, Running With Raven author Laura Lee Huttenbach, and Running Home author (and legendary ultramarathoner) Katie Arnold.