'This is supposed to be fun'
Plus 2020 races in Ireland, Ann Arbor, Tampa, north Georgia + Virginia wine country
“As a runner, you have to face the truth about yourself on a regular basis, and it makes you more honest. You can't pretend to be faster than you are. You can't pretend that you are better prepared than you are. You cannot pretend to be a runner, you actually have to run.” — John Bingham
I don’t write often here about the world of elite, professional running. Not because I don’t like it — runners like Ryan and Sara Hall, Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher are heroes of mine — but rather because I’m going for something different in this space.
The same goes for the running industry, mainly because it already gets so much coverage in other outlets. But occasionally, I come across something that stirs my interest because it strays over into the world of amateur running that we all are a part of, that I consider my home.
That’s what happened when I stumbled across this Twitter thread by Susie Hufstader, who works as an advocacy manager for Bike East Bay, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting cycling in the San Francisco Bay Area.
What’s happening, she says, is the quest for speed that we see celebrated in elite running is trickling down into the sport’s amateur levels to an unhealthy degree.
It’s affecting the way coaches work with young runners, and influencing the rest of us to purchase shoes and equipment we may not need — and which may cause injury.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s what Hufstader has to say:
Kara Goucher @karagoucherI am so proud of @runmarycain for telling her powerful story of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse at the Nike Oregon Project. This took so much bravery. We have to stop the abuse of athletes, specifically female. Please watch and thank you Mary ❤️https://t.co/Rha4Qhs3k7
You might agree with this, you might not. But when I read what Hufstader had to say, it made me stop and think — about the choices we make that contribute, even in tiny ways, to cultivating things that are healthy (or unhealthy) in the world.
Like just about everywhere else in our world, a lot of things have been happening lately in running too — from the revelations runner Mary Cain shared last month about the pressures to get “thinner, and thinner, and thinner” as a 17-year-old for Nike’s Oregon Project, to the stunning behavior by a male runner toward WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjian as she reported live from the Savannah Bridge Run this weekend.
I like to think of running as this pure thing I use to get away from all that, but the world has a way of intruding, doesn’t it? I’m afraid I don’t have answers to all these challenges, at least not today — but we also can’t stick our heads in the sand when we see things that shouldn’t be.
There’s a better way. And I think each of us knows it. We just have to do what we can, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us in the moment, to help bring that world into being.
I hope each and every one of you guys has had a great week of running so far — love to hear your stories and adventures when you have a moment. As always, keep in touch!
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New Port Richey, Fla. | Saturday, March 7, 2020
A run along the trails that wind through the 8,300-acre J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park along Florida’s Gulf coast, just a short drive from nearby Tampa. The race — which runs mostly along flat trails made of sand, hard-packed dirt and shells — is considered an excellent one for runners new to trail racing, thanks to the fact that the trails are wide and forgiving. While there are a few tree roots and rocks to contend with, it’s a mostly non-technical off-road course, though of course it can get muddy — but if there’s no rain, this should be a fun run in the woods.
$57 and up | Sign up here
Chatsworth, Ga. | Sunday, April 26, 2020
A route of breathtaking beauty up in the mountains of northwest Georgia, about an hour and a half from Atlanta. Starting from the top of Fort Mountain, at an elevation of about 3,000 feet, you’ll run an out-and-back around the top of the mountain for the first half of the race, and then descend into the Cohutta Wilderness Area before crossing the finish line at scenic City Park in Chatsworth, Ga. — dropping about 2,000 feet between the start and the finish. The race takes its name in part from its connection to the Trail of Tears, as the historic route for the Trail intersects with the route you’ll run at the race.
$70 and up | Sign up here
Purcellville, Va. | Saturday, May 30, 2020
Run through the heart of the Loudon County wine-growing region just over an hour west of our nation’s capitol at this scenic race, which runs through rolling green hills along backcountry roads, past vineyards and the horse country just outside nearby Leesburg. Your meandering 13.1 miles will start at Doukenie Winery, a 500-acre farm nestled at the base of a mountain near the Virginia-West Virginia state line, and from there you’ll run a long, looping course that’s mostly paved roads with some gravel roads in the second half of the race.
$68 and up | Sign up here
Ann Arbor, Mich. | Sunday, May 31, 2020
The hills, trees and backwoods riverbanks of Michigan’s Huron River Drive are the setting for this race, which follows an eastward route from the town of Dexter along the Huron River to the finish in downtown Ann Arbor. The course runs through a series of local parks, while the river flowing by makes for a mostly quiet companion throughout the race, as it’s known to locals and visitors for its slow current and scarce rapids that make for great canoeing and kayaking.
$60 and up | Sign up here
Ballyheighue, Ireland | Saturday, June 13, 2020
Sometimes called “the most scenic half marathon in Ireland,” this race unfolds largely along the Wild Atlantic Way, where you’ll take in the verdant scenery of the Emerald Isle’s wild western coast, famous for its wind-whipped meadows atop soaring cliffs as well as peaceful, serene beach towns in the lowlands near the coastline. Depending on the weather — this time of year should bring plenty of sunshine — you’ll get to see weather-beaten cliffs, mountains and beaches, and even finish at the feet of Ballyheigue Castle.
$44 and up | Sign up here
This week’s read
“Running Dysmorphic,” by Devin Kelly
An incredibly powerful first-person account for what it’s like to punish yourself every waking moment for not achieving the ideal of perfection you think you should. As Kelly writes, “I won’t introduce myself by telling you that, on days I don’t run, I have to do 200 sit-ups right before dinner if I want to allow myself to eat. That, in the times I’ve had company over or have eaten at someone’s house, I’ve done those sit-ups in other people’s bathrooms. Or that I’ve been known by roommates to, minutes before dinner, rush out the door and run for 15 minutes if I haven’t run at all that day.” (Full story here)
A song to run to today
Listen to our full playlist on Spotify here.