I know you know the feeling. Just like I do.
You see your running shoes sitting on the floor of your closet, staring back up at you. There they wait, patiently and silently, where they’ve waited for you since the last time you picked them up and went out for a run.
You meant to get out there the next day, or the day after that. You really, truly did. It’s just that life overtook your good intentions (as it often does). Things picked up again at work after the holidays, particularly after the first week of the new year; sooner or later, normal life had to make its way back.
Or, you got Covid… again. Or the flu. Or a bad case of laryngitis, which I got back in December, as it burned through my part of the world like wildfire.
Whatever the reason, the good intentions with which you started the year, the healthy habits you put in place starting on January 1st… there’s an excellent chance they’ve fallen by the wayside already.
That doesn’t mean hope is lost, however. Not by a long shot.
A few days ago, an old friend of mine called me up. We hadn’t spoken in months; we went to both high school and college together, but life and family responsibilities have made it harder to see one another these past few years. Whenever we do talk, we reminisce, taking a trip back in time almost every time, especially to our college years.
This time, we remembered an English professor whose class we took on the Divine Comedy by the medieval Italian poet and philosopher Dante, who opens the book’s first volume Inferno by describing what it feels like to be lost in the middle of life’s journey, as if waking up from a deep sleep: “I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell of that wood, savage and harsh and dense, the thought of which renews my fear…”
While I realize I’m being (a bit!) melodramatic, this painting of Inferno’s opening scene is so resonant because it depicts something we all feel at some point in our lives: the feeling of being lost and adrift, alone without anyone to guide the way.
In Dante’s case, the guide who appears in the story is the ancient Roman poet Virgil, who was a hero and role model to the real-life Dante Alighieri (who made himself the protagonist of the Divine Comedy).
In the modern world, unfortunately, there usually isn’t a Virgil who can show up fortuitously in the dark wood to rescue us — which means we have to be that for ourselves, and for each other.
Each of us here is in a different place with our fitness level, our pace, our distance, the kinds of runs we take on, the reasons we do it. We’re scattered all around the world. But we are searching for something similar, I think: the chance to improve, to get better at this running thing — or to get better at being who it is we’re meant to be.
With that in mind, I plan to try something different here going forward — instead of following one training plan together, which isn’t really feasible now, I’d like to focus on the inspiration that gets us out there to run and to hear more of your stories.
In emails from you and especially the comments here, you all share amazing, heartfelt, inspiring and moving stories. I’d love to find a way to bring them more to the forefront. We have the comments and our (mostly) weekly thread discussions — is there a way to highlight what you are doing even more? If you’re interested in sharing yours, please reach out and we can talk about ways to share it with our larger group here.
You all inspire me and keep me motivated — even as I’ve lost my own way so early this year with my own running. I write this post today as much to myself as to anyone, as your energy motivates me to lace up my shoes and get out there too.
As always, let me know what’s new with you and how your running is going — keep in touch!
Terrell, yes, we ( runners and non-runners) all have our challenges to lace up and get out the door. Perhaps we try some alchemy and turn our negative energy into a positive cause by contributing a dollar each day we run/walk to the goal of donating the sun to providing “entry fee” scholarships for kids who cannot afford to enter a race ( something we take for granted). We all write checks to you at years end and you establish a non profit where we “adopt a runner” so they can have the thrilling experience of running their first sanctioned race. This is just one thought. I am sure our group has many others that might be way better. The idea of course is to help ourselves lace up by helping someone else. Service to others is the ALCHEMY.
I appreciated your opening paragraphs -- only for me, the problem is I get dressed to run in the morning, then sometimes I end up wearing my running clothes & shoes all day without getting out the door, which feels terrible! Also, I took a class on Dante in school and appreciated the reference. I often think of Purgatory during ultras. As for your training plans--I think it's wise not to offer a standard plan for all readers. Individualized training is the way to go; everyone's fitness level and goals are different, and the type of race a person is training for makes a huge difference in how they should train (e.g. flat vs. hilly, road vs. trail, hot vs. cold climate...). I am happy to put on my coaching hat and share training advice with your or readers if you like. Thanks for your post!