Today's the day
Plus: 4 downloadable training plans you can use this winter + spring
“I once was lost, but now I’m found… was blind, but now I see.”
“I want to run… I want to hide… I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside…”
Whenever it’s rainy or extremely cold outside and I find myself running on my treadmill, I always seem to gravitate toward this video of U2’s performance of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” from their concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena a little over a decade ago.
I think it’s because this performance, maybe more than any other I’ve heard, captures every feeling the song evokes — the rush and the excitement you feel when you hear the opening notes play, as well as the ache and the melancholy over past regrets, which lead singer Bono captures so soulfully in the verses from “Amazing Grace” that blend into the beginning of the song.
To me, those two ideas are never far apart: looking toward the future with anticipation about what it might bring, while at the same time being a bit mournful about the past, whether that’s over things I’ve done, or things I’ve left undone.
That’s what makes the promise of this day — today, right now — what it is. No matter how we may have faltered in the year just past, it’s not too late. We’ve been given this gift, a huge blank canvas of a whole new year, to start all over again and try anew.
It’s also an opportunity to give ourselves grace and forgiveness over any regrets we carry. For as long as I can remember, going back to the time I was a child, I’ve heard the message that we shouldn’t judge others. That you can’t really understand a person unless you’ve walked in their shoes, and seen the world through their eyes.
What I didn’t understand until very recently is, that applies to ourselves too. The person each of us was a year ago, or two years ago, or five years ago, only knew a part of what we know now — so it’s okay to let ourselves off the hook.
If you remember from this recent issue, I’ve been reading — and been enthralled with — Sarah Bakewell’s 2010 book How to Live, about the life lessons the French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne gave us in the series of books he called Essays, which chronicle his wrestlings with himself and the world around him.
What jumped out at me this past week, as I’ve been nearing the end of the book, is Bakewell’s noticing of how easy Montaigne was on himself, especially during a time when the religious leaders and institutions of the day emphasized that we should do precisely the opposite:
Although he returned to his work constantly, he hardly ever seemed to get the urge to cross things out, only to keep adding more. The spirit of repentance was alien to him in writing, just as it was in life, where he remained firmly wedded to amor fati: the cheerful acceptance of whatever happens.
This was at odds with the doctrines of Christianity, which insisted that you must constantly repent of your past misdeeds, in order to keep wiping clean the slate and giving yourself fresh beginnings. Montaigne knew that some of the things he had done in the past no longer made sense to him, but he was content to presume that he must have been a different person at the time, and leave it at that. His past selves were as diverse as a group of people at a party. Just as he would not think of passing judgement on a roomful of acquaintances, all of whom had their own reasons and points of view to explain what they had done, so he would not think of judging previous versions of [himself]. “We are all patchwork,” he wrote, “and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game.”
No overall point of view existed from which he could look back and construct the one consistent Montaigne that he would have liked to be. Since he did not try to airbrush his previous selves out of life, there was no reason for him to do it in his book either. The Essays had grown alongside him for twenty years; they were what they were, and he was happy to let them be.
I love, love, love this idea — that we can make peace with our past selves, that we are made whole not by denying or leaving them behind, but by accepting and recognizing them as part of who we are, just like the self we are now.
I’m looking forward to the year ahead for a number of reasons. But a big one is that this January marks eight years of writing to you each week, hearing about your goals and ambitions and your struggles and setbacks, and how you’re overcoming them.
This started out as a newsletter about running, but over the years — especially in the years since we joined Substack — it’s transformed into something that sustains me in ways far beyond how my running is going. I’m lifted up by the comments you share and the emails you send me, and I’m excited about the things we’ll cover in the year ahead.
And I hope you are too!
PDFs of our training plans
Late last year, one of the things that came through loud and clear in your feedback was that you like the training plans I’ve shared, but don’t want to wait for each week’s — that you’d rather receive them all at once.
So, here they are! First, the 12-week (or, three-month) plan, which is perfect for a spring race in late March or early to mid-April: