Discover more from The Half Marathoner
Plus 6 in-person races for 2021 in Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Utah + Washington
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
— Martin Luther
When I was a young kid, I wasn’t much of an athlete. Actually, that’s being generous — I wasn’t an athlete at all.
After the bell rang and they let us out for recess, the rest of the guys in my grade would immediately swarm to the playground for football games. I’d usually be over in the corner of the yard, on the swings.
(And don’t get me started on shirts and skins in P.E. class!)
Until recently, I’d forgotten all of this. It was a distant, hazy memory. But it all came back this weekend, after I took my 7-year-old son out on a hike in the national park area near where we live.
See, a few years ago, we began introducing him to organized team sports. The kind with coaches, team practices, uniforms, etc. — and performance expectations.
Remember what it was like to be 5 or 6 years old, and trying to understand all the action happening on a baseball field, with a coach yelling at you from across the field? Well, he has about the same enthusiasm for it that I did way back then.
This weekend, though, he loved the hike. We were out there for a couple of hours with another dad and his son, as part of a Cub scout activity. And my son bounded up and down the trails like a six-month-old puppy, finding the route and talking non-stop the entire time.
It was a blast for me, especially, to see him so exuberant, to watch him enjoy himself so much. (Especially after the other sports we’ve tried didn’t excite him at all.)
Being a parent is such a delicate balance between knowing how far to push your child out of the nest, and when to let go and let the universe work its magic. It’s really hard to watch them struggle with things you struggled with; you don’t want them to feel left out, or miss out.
But you don’t want to push too far, either. These thoughts stirred when I stumbled across this poem the other day, by the poet/painter Khalil Gibran:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
But seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
As living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might
That His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves also the bow that is stable.
The phrase above — “life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday” — there’s a certain ache, a melancholy in that. Today is only a moment, after all.
But there’s something liberating in it too. The things we think hang on us like shackles and hold us back today, we’re not actually bound by. We can cast them off anytime we choose.
My son isn’t bound by the expectations I have or anyone else has for him. He is going to be the one who determines the direction he travels, and he’s destined for a place I’ll never get to.
The same is true of you and me. We were all children once. Probably we’ve all had expectations put on us, or ones we put on ourselves.
Running gives us the chance to let those expectations melt away, mile after mile. Especially if you were never particularly good at team sports (like me!), you still can become an athlete out there on the roads and trails.
As always, I hope all is well in your world — let me know how your running is going, and the goals you’re dreaming up for the new year. Keep in touch!
Races you might love running
Sevier, Utah | Saturday, May 15, 2021
A long, beautifully scenic descent among the steep canyon cliffs of Clear Creek Canyon Road in central Utah’s Sevier County, roughly a three-hour drive from Salt Lake City. You’ll start at the highest point of the race — just over 6,900 feet above sea level — and descend about 1,300 feet by the time you reach the finish line, running alongside the creek the road is named for most of the way. You’ll also pass by Fremont Indian State Park along the way, where ancient native American wall paintings and rock art can still be seen today.
$45 and up | Sign up here
Vernonia, Ore. | Sunday, April 11, 2021
A fast, flat and scenic run along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a rails-to-trails project that converted 21 miles of a former railroad into a tree-lined paved and gravel trail through the picturesque woodlands of this corner of Oregon, nestled up among the Cascade Mountains about an hour’s drive northwest from Portland. Most of your 13.1 miles unfold along tree-lined trails closed to car traffic, with a gentle 400-ft. drop from start to finish along the point-to-point route.
TBA | Sign up here
Marathon, Fla. | Saturday, April 17, 2021
Believed to be the only race you can run entirely surrounded by water — in this case, the stretches of ocean that lie between each of the islands in the Florida Keys — this race got its start back in 1982, when the now-famous Seven Mile Bridge opened to traffic for the first time. Now a hugely popular race, its point-to-point route begins near mile marker 43 near Marathon, and then heads west along the bridge toward Little Duck Key. Because local officials close the bridge during the race, you’ll have about an hour and a half to finish it before the bus comes to pick you up. The views are truly spectacular here, however, on the bridge sometimes called the “eighth wonder of the world.”
Registration TBA | Sign up here
Seward, Alaska | Sunday, July 4, 2021
It’s “the toughest 5K on the planet,” according to Outside Magazine, which tells the story of one of their journalists who went to run it and report on it being shown a video that told of “countless opportunities for injury.” In fact, the man showing prospective entrants the video took a moment to pause and emphasize, “this isn’t any old 5K.” What it is is a brutally tough climb up the rocky slopes of the mountain for which it’s named, starting at sea level and reaching 2,974 feet by the time you’re at the half-way point at the top of the mountain. And then it’s time to run back down.
Bids in auction | Sign up here
Munising, Mich. | Saturday, July 24, 2021
Just off the coast of this small city that looks out onto Lake Superior along Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, runners get a chance to run the trails, hills, beaches and forests of the Grand Island National Recreation Area. The race takes runners both along the shoreline and through the heart of the forest on 13,500-acre Grand Island, which lies about half a mile off the coast of Munising and is accessible only by ferry boat — the beauty and challenge of its terrain has earned it accolades from outlets like Runner’s World, which has called it one of the nation’s best trail races for beginning trail runners.
$80 and up | Sign up here
Snoqualmie Pass, Wash. | June, August & September 2021
What began as a small, almost all-downhill race that starts near the Summit at Snoqalmie ski area near Seattle has become three summertime races, all of which unfold along the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, along a former railroad that has been converted into gravel hiking and running trails. Before you get to those trails, however, you’ll run through the 2.3-mile-long Snoqualmie Tunnel, which inspired the name of the race. You’ll definitely want to bring a flashlight with you, either to carry or wear on your forehead, as there will be light at the end of that tunnel but it’s farther away than you think. Once you make it outside, you’ll run across old train trestles near the tops of trees, where you’ll be able to look out onto stream beds below as you make your way down the mountain.
Registration TBA | Sign up here
Great running reads
The Perfect Warm-Up, According to Science. You don’t have to get too complicated with your warm-ups for running (or any kind of exercise, really). In fact, a lot of our ideas on what we should do to warm up are pretty “light on science,” according to the article’s author Christie Aschwanden.
“I don’t know that there’s research backing this up, but it generally feels better to start slowly and gradually ease into exercise. I think people do it because it’s what feels good.”
This New Film Debunks the Tarahumara Myth. I loved the 2009 book Born to Run, which chronicles author Chris McDougall’s journey to Mexico to find out what makes such amazing runners from a seldom-seen tribe living in the Copper Canyon mountains. But this article, about a new ESPN documentary, raises some questions.
“Running is our resistance to imposition.”
Back to Racing Safely. Why the size and scale of smaller races — especially trail races — makes it significantly easier and safer for them to come back safely than large-city road races with thousands of participants. Written by a sports medicine Ph.D. who’s also an ultramarathoner, this offers up a welcome, data-based look at how the running industry might re-emerge over the coming year.
“One of our failures, not just in the United States but across the world, is being unnecessarily slow to open up events and activities that can easily be made safe.”
A song to run to today
Listen to our full playlist on Spotify, with 8 hours, 55 minutes of music to run to.