My alarm goes off at 5:28 am. It’s an odd wake-up time, I’ll admit, but it makes me feel like I’m waking up before 5:30 without actually waking up at 5 am. I change and shuffle out to the garage, open the door and sluggishly begin my quarter-mile loop repeats around our block. It’s boring, but it’s all I have on these summer mornings when my husband leaves for work at 5 am.
I’ve always loved running, but it wasn’t until I trained for my first trail ultra that my running love morphed into a true passion. I immersed myself into pushing further and further, training for the next thing the moment I crossed the finish line. This culminated for me in my longest race to date: a 100K. Unlike many other races I completed, this one went absolutely perfectly. My mind and emotions were in the positive column the whole time and I was able to stay fueled and strong the entire distance. I was on cloud nine afterwards. I thought the only way was up from there.
I remember the day I could not push the jogging stroller anymore. A 2.5-year-old, 10-month-old, first trimester stomach, and the exhaustion that came with all of it had me throwing my running shoes in the closet for an extended period of time. My body was aching for a break as it began the process of growing another human in 3 short years. At the time I was too tired to care. I folded up the stroller for the final time and took a nap.
In the depths of my training, I would often spend 4 or more hours every Saturday morning out on a trail. Since we did not live near any trails, it was an ordeal coordinating my workouts with family time, weekend obligations, and downtime. I had a focus though and the unwavering support of my husband. I remember the first Saturday I didn’t do this. I made pancakes and stayed in pjs until late into the afternoon. It was weird and wonderful at the same time.
It was March when we found out we were moving cross country for my husband’s job. We had 8 weeks to prep our kids, find a house, move a house, and say goodbye. The Midwest winter lingered into April. I stopped running almost completely. I couldn’t manage another thing on my plate, including running.
As a trail runner, I often look to nature to teach me and show me how the world was meant to operate. Trees are the most fascinating to me. Their predictable cycle (at least in the Midwest) shows me that each part is necessary for its own growth and survival. There are seasons that from the outside all we see is beauty and new growth. Then there are seasons in which the trees are barren, void of any signs that anything productive is happening. Underneath the surface though, it is preparing for what’s next – new shoots of life, stronger deeper roots, another ring around its middle.
I used to be able to run eight miles most mornings and feel amazing. This morning, my body cuts through the humid air at a pace that feels like it is going to kill me. It is “slow” by my unrealistic, always do better standards though. The same houses pass by loop after loop. People begin to leave for work, a long commute to the city. It feels like mental torture repeating this short, flat loop, but my husband is one of those early commuters. No treadmill means this block is the best option I’ve got to get back to some miles under my feet. I miss my trails. I miss my old routes. I miss variety in any form other than which direction I’ll do the loop today.
But this is my season. My Strava doesn’t feel like much to show for my daily 3 monotonous miles, but maybe something is happening underneath. After all, seasons always change. And every single one of them has a purpose. The beauty is in discovering the purpose for the season you are in right now so that can appreciate it in the moment.
Tips for when your running season changes:
- You are more than a runner. It can be hard sometimes to separate this piece of our identity but is just that: a piece and not the whole. You can still be a runner even if your season has brought an injury, less time, a change in desire to run, or other something else.
- Embrace the current. When seasons change, I am prone to think about what was, instead of what is right now. Living in the moment and being proud of whatever run, slow or fast, long or short, you get in is so important.
- Change is hard, but it usually results in growth. Growth doesn’t always show up in big exciting ways on a daily basis though. Maybe you aren’t running as fast or as far right now. What ARE you doing though? Caring for a sick child? Taking on an exciting project at work? Healing your body? Meeting a goal of getting out to run three days a week? These are all good and important things too.
Remember, the season you are in has a purpose. Look for the purpose and let that motivate you for whatever you have today.