As if the COVID pandemic wasn’t bad enough already, your race has been cancelled.
Blow off running in exchange for more time spent online with fear mongering news headlines? No, now is the time to consider new ideas and take on new objectives. Make COVID something that you look back on having grown, make it a positive.
As runners, finishing races, taking Strava segments, or losing weight shouldn’t be the only goals we set for ourselves. There’s a whole lot of terrain and all different styles of running to explore. Running up mountains, and not just trail running, may be just the goal you didn’t know you needed to grow as a runner.
I spent some years racing road bikes at a decent level, in Europe and in the US. I hardly remember anything from competition. The same goes for some trail running races I did in the Alps only a few years back. But when I think back to what I did in the mountains those same years, I have rich and vivid memories; switching off the headlamp as darkness turned to light, sunrises with hours already in my legs, storms, suffering, teamwork, friendship, success, failures, dread and joy. All this can be had in organized competition as well, but it’s very different when you are on your own and a mountain looms above, not with course markings, aid stations and support, but with unknowns, cruxes, and indifference.
Growing up in California, I’d stared at a small bump on the distant horizon that I knew was Pyramid Peak, our local Everest at 9983 feet. Once I had wheels, a 3 hour round trip was well worth the effort so I could spend time falling in love with running in the mountains. My first summit of Pyramid was a solo trip and while it’s 17 feet short of 10,000, I felt like 10’000 feet was a big deal. And it was, because I’d made my own way and I’d never been that high. Those “first times” when we’re falling in love are the times we never forget.
When I realized how rich these experiences were for me, I committed to doing more, seeking my own way where the only reward I was after was the freedom to move in the mountain world I enjoy so much. 30+ years later, that passion hasn’t subsided.
Without any races to tempt you, maybe the summer and fall of 2020 is the perfect time to pursue peak running and to decide if it’s your thing. You can carry on with physical training, but now you get to go where you want, study routes of your own choosing, consider the terrain you’ll pass through, and apply your knowledge and fitness to whatever it is you decide to take on. The overall process is as important as the physical requirements.
Freedom in the mountains comes with a price. That price is the necessity to learn all around mountain skills that will allow you to move more safely and increase your options. Your knowledge, and the understanding that you can never know everything, is going to be what you use to base some very important decisions on.
Next up, the process of choosing a more complicated running peak, and then going through the steps to be sure it is a feasible option given the conditions.
By Dan Patitucci