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Why running is part of my one wild and precious life

While I pride myself on being an editor/writer (as well as a runner), I’ve never been interested in poetry. When it comes to poems, I think I peaked early in my childhood with creative finishes to “Roses are red / Violets are blue … “

At this time In my life, I am often thinking of quite literally the only lines from any poem that I

can recite:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I find myself drawn to that particular poem because I find myself squarely in the sandwich generation now.

Stuck in the middle

While my boys are now men and flourishing in college, I am still left to wonder. Did I do enough with and for them as they were growing up? Was I the best dad I could be in their formative years? What will the future bring as their adult lives are just beginning?

At the same time, I recently moved my dad into assisted living due to regression brought on by Alzheimer’s disease.

As the oldest child, the responsibility for his wellbeing, properties and everything else falls on me. While our relationship was good until junior high, it soured in my teenage years. As an adult, I removed myself from his negativity, verbal abuse and other personality idiosyncrasies.

We’ve mended our relationship enough so that he trusts me to handle his end-of-life care. And I am honored to do so. But as I look back at his life over the past several decades, I can’t help but to wonder what he planned to do with his one life. He made choices to seclude himself from family activities, opportunities to travel and hobbies with peers.

I remember as a youth, he would say, “In my next life, I will … “ and it usually concluded with something related to wealth, good looks or other sought-after status symbols.

This was always odd to me as I never believed we get a second chance at life. Perhaps that is why I embraced running in my early 40s and sought out big goals. Perhaps that is why I keep pushing my boundaries in the sport. Perhaps that is why I approach life now with a sense of urgency.

Finding joy on the trails

These thoughts coalesced around me as I was preparing for my first race of the year, a half marathon trail race in Indy, called the Winter Trail Frosty — or appropriately WTF. I have previously run races put on by this race company in the same location and enjoyed them immensely. This race was no different and gave me an opportunity to test myself, enjoy the running community and experience the trails.

The WTF race was part of a build-up to my big goal race for the first part of this year, the Zion 100K in April. Next month, I will do the Bel Monte 50K as another step toward Zion.

For the half marathon, I set a goal to be competitive, aim for a 1:45 finish and win my age group. While I was about 90 seconds off my goal time, I negative split the two-loop course, moved up from 18th to 13th overall (out of 197) after the midway point and came in first in my age group out of 26 entrants.

I will share this with my dad when I see him. I’m not sure whether he will be able to process it. He has good days and bad days as to be expected.

His future, like all of ours, is uncertain.

Running with gratitude, planning for what's next

And that is part of my drive to run when I can, to explore the boundaries of what is possible for me and be a good ambassador for the sport. During the WTF race, for example, I thanked all the volunteers I encountered, encouraged the quarter marathon walkers I passed on the second loop with a cheery “good job” and made sure to be a good steward of the trails.

Those approaches are common among trail and ultra runners: showing gratitude to others and treating nature properly. So my approaches are not unique. Nor would they have changed if I had a disappointing race.

I’ll always have the memories affiliated with this race, at least I hope so. But now it’s time to focus on this spring’s bigger goal. I am excited to be exploring Zion with the goal of receiving my qualifying race for the Western States 100 lottery, giving me two tickets and twice the hope of being selected for the 2021 race.

Whether or not I make it into Western, my focus will remain clear. Run with joy and passion. Show gratitude, especially to those in the running community. And create stories that will endure, inspire and motivate.

So that’s my story, my drive as I seek out goals, my escape from the realities and frailties of life. With that said, I turn to you and ask …

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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