It’s taken me a lot longer to write this post than I thought. Some of it was just setting aside the time to write, but part of me just wanted to put the season behind me and move on to new goals and a fresh slate. I didn’t want to dwell on the fact that for the first time in 14 years of running, I didn’t PR in my main events.
If there’s one word I can think of to describe my past season, it’s frustrating. And I don’t like to admit that, because on paper my season wasn’t half bad. I ran under the World Standard time 5 times, and I finished top 10 in the country for the third time. (Although finishing 9th in the 1500m finals at USAs was hard to swallow after how well I performed there last year). I had some really good races this summer, particularly wins at TrackTown and Sir Walter, and I had a great string of races over in Europe. I’m grateful to be so consistent and be competitive in most races I’m in, but I had a hard time embracing the good parts of my season as they were happening. When my foot flared up in early August, forcing me to stop running and shut my season down, it seemed like a fitting end to a frustrating season.
Part of me was just relieved to be done; I wasn’t mentally ready for a few weeks of all-out cross-training to just run moderately at a few more races, even if they were some of my favorites. I just wanted to be able to train fully and without interruption. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case this past year, or most of my career in fact.
I feel like the king Sisyphus, who’s forced to continually roll a boulder uphill, only to have it slip from his grasp just before reaching the top and roll back down again. It seems like the majority of my races have small asterisks next to them, for when I’m sick, or had to take off several days before the race, or had months of low mileage leading up to it.
It’s easy to get caught in this negative mindset, when it seems like you’re constantly taking two steps forward and one step back. But I’m one of the lucky few. Every single day I wake up with my dream job, getting to do what I love more than anything, even if that means spending countless hours in the pool and on the bike. And I’ve had success that I never imagined even 5 years ago. I may have had some struggles, but many more have had much worse trials to overcome. If anything, these struggles have helped me develop a greater appreciation for when things feel great and have taught me to take advantage of every opportunity I get.
But more importantly, this summer has taught me to keep my own running in perspective. Running is something that I love and that God has blessed me with, but it’s just one part of who I am. I’m inspired daily by Gabe Grunewald, who maintains an incredible force of positivity despite battling cancer. I love following my competitors online working hard every day because that motivates me to keep pushing too. And coaching at Michigan has helped me focus on the team’s goals and celebrating their successes.
So I’ll continue to keep pushing that boulder up the hill, even if it rolls back every single time. I have goals, huge goals, that I may never reach, but that’s no reason to not try. It’s the chase that I love, the grind of working hard every single day to be better, whether you’re stuck in the pool or hammering an interval workout. It’s the relationships that I get to build as I meet others pursing the same goals as me. People often ask what it’s like between me and my competitors, and they’re often surprised when I say those are some of my best friends. We may be fierce competitors as soon as the gun goes off, but the truth is those other runners understand you in a way no one else can. They understand what it takes to push the limits, how hard it hurts when you fail, and how the journey is so much better when you can share it.
I’m excited to see where I can go from here in my running career. Despite the setbacks I know I’ll face, I’ve always been able to come back stronger and with a greater sense of purpose in my running than ever before. So while it’s been a rocky and at times frustrating year, and it definitely won’t be easier going forward, I can’t wait to embrace the new challenges I’ll face.