One of the first things I ask myself after a race is, “What’s next for me?” It’s helpful to look forward whether my race experience was successful or challenging in hindsight. It keeps the post-race emotional slump at bay (I’m not the only one who has this, right?!). It reminds me that running (and life) is a process and that personal growth is never linear or straightforward. Sometimes I want to improve in what I’m doing, and other times I want to go in a new direction.
After my 50K, what kept popping into my mind was “Running…I am complete”. It was true. When I started running endurance events in 2010, I had hoped to become a half marathoner, a marathoner, and ultimately, an ultrarunner. I wanted to use my running to raise money for charity, and I did, raising $10,000 for autism in honor of my son. I wanted to join Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs, and then run a sub-4 hour marathon. Check. Later, I got sidetracked by an incredibly fun alpine cycling adventure (Thanks, France), only to return to running, and that elusive goal of completing an ultramarathon.
It took me seven years to work up the courage, fitness, confidence, and to build the consistency that I needed to accomplish my goal of running a 50K. There were many failures along the way, all of which helped me correct and move closer to my goal. Was my finish time the best I’m capable of? Probably not, given my uncooperative knee. But speed was never on my radar for this race. I wanted to show up to the start, keep moving forward, and finish. Check. Check. Check.
I knew immediately after the finish that trail running was amazing, and I wanted to run trails more often. I knew that I had blown my annual fitness budget on this big trip, and that it was totally worth it to not race again in 2017. I also knew (as I already anticipated) that I had no desire to ever run 50 miles, 100K, or 100 mile races. Yep, 50K was a lot like a half marathon road race. The perfect distance to enjoy the ultra experience without feeling trashed afterwards. It was just what I was looking for, and no more.
It’s an elusive but positive emotion, feeling content. It doesn’t mean I’ll never challenge myself, but it means I can look at the path behind me and think “That was amazing, and I’m right where I need to be.”
What’s next? Haven’t answered that question yet.