My wife and I recently returned from a much needed, kid-free weekend in Las Vegas. We did the usual Vegas things on our trip: stuffed ourselves at buffets, donated some of our child’s piggy bank to the one-armed bandits, and walked around the Bellagio admiring the fancy people while we drank giant cans of Miller Highlife (it is the “champagne of beer,” after all).
This was my fourth trip to Las Vegas and although the bright lights and extravagant displays of the casinos were familiar, one thing was very different this time around. This time, I was a runner. On my previous visits to the desert I had been an overweight, out-of-shape, cigarette smoking model of unhealthiness. I thought I might keel over each time I had to take the stairs when one of the escalators on the Strip was out of order.
This time I was the guy in short shorts and bright running shoes stretching outside the hotel lobby each morning, while reflections of my former self crushed out Camel Lights. Sure, my wife and I had our fill of fun while in Vegas. We stayed out a little too late each night and made more trips to the dessert bar than we care to admit, but each morning, I went for a run. And it felt amazing.
I started running, like many, to achieve an end goal: finish a marathon. My running ambitions escalated quickly and turned to a 50k finish. Not long after, I was hooked and started signing up for multiple ultras each year. But while I love everything that racing offers (the competition, opportunities to meet new friends, finish line burritos, etc.), the thing I enjoy most about running is the life-changing fitness it has provided me. Running has given me the energy, strength, and courage to become a better and more productive person in both my personal and professional lives. My trip to Las Vegas reminded me of this.
When we returned from Vegas, I signed up for my first ultra of the 2020 season. In years past, I would have already had my entire calendar planned out with races of various distances and qualifiers. I’m not sure what took me so long to pull the trigger this year, other than I’m simply enjoying being in shape and all the wonderful things that come with it. Running is no longer something I do just to reach a finish line. It’s a part of my life and one that I’m very blessed to have found—even if it took me well into my 30s to discover.
With spring approaching and many of us beginning our training for goal races, remember this important lesson: there are no guarantees on race day. You could get sick or injured, or just not have a great day. Your race could get cancelled due to weather or wildfires or some crazy incident like what happened to UltraRunning editor, Amy Clark, and the other “Live Wire” runners at the 2018 Miwok 100k when they couldn’t reach the starting line due to a downed power line blocking the road.
Yes, there are no guarantees on race day. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy your training process and each gain you make. One outcome doesn’t define you. But everything you put into it does. Celebrate your fitness and take pride in all those mornings you strapped on a headlamp and ran in the cold before work. This will also help you relax when it’s time for your goal race—knowing that all of your hard work isn’t just for one race. The benefits that come from running will last long after you cross the finish line. If you stick with it, they will last a lifetime.
As my wife and I were walking down the Strip on our final day in Vegas we had to cross one of the pedestrian bridges that take you over the busy street below. On the right was an escalator. On the left was a set of stairs. We took the escalator. We’d already run that morning.