Since I started running ultramarathons in 2011, my running life has generally followed an annual rhythm:
WINTER: Down time; base building
SPRING: Training ramp-up; early season training races
SUMMER: Peak fitness; competitive 100-milers
FALL: Recover from summer; second training peak for another big race
This structure was logical and organic and became predictable. I leaned into that predictable structure for stability in a sport that, by design, takes participants through extreme highs and lows. Until 2020. To put it mildly, 2020 is like the crippling nausea at mile 75, the wrong turn at mile 10, the injury one week before race day, and the chaffed skin for days after wearing that article of clothing that is now in the garbage.
Without races, and with the more important things in life brought into sharper focus—health, safety, livelihood—ultrarunning, at a surface level, has taken a back seat this year (or been stuffed in the trunk). But at a deeper level, ultrarunning means far more than just racing. For me, it is about adopting a lifestyle conducive to personal stability and personal growth—this, too, has come into sharper focus in 2020.
Now I see that years of working through the highs and lows of an ultrarunning lifestyle prepared me to better handle dramatic changes to that lifestyle, and other stressors of 2020. What steps can I take to deal with seeing the framework of my daily routines in disarray? The same steps I would take any other year. Literal ones, with my own feet. Get out and run. Even if it looks different year to year, consistent running fortifies me and enables me to handle serious challenges on a racecourse or elsewhere.
When times are great, run to celebrate the present and prepare for the future. Enjoy the privilege of training hard and racing. Believe that the strength you build will help you handle unknown challenges ahead.
When times are challenging, run to deal. Hang on to the daily practice not to compete, but for stability and all the other benefits running provides. Tap into all you learned from training and racing.