Not surprisingly, the topic of New Years' resolutions came to the surface while "chatting" with a few friends on a common social media site. Most of the resolutions seemed run-of-the-mill and typical for citizen athletes, with some ambition here and there. And that's a good thing.
I wrote a post about a year ago, titled "Resolved Not To Resolve," in which I swore never to engage in the overambitious, somewhat nebulous and somewhat self-defeating gesture of proclaiming a New Years' resolution. Suzanne, my wife, would probably say she's perfect as she is and wouldn't change a thing about me. The fact love is blind is good. Very good. I often hope, as a coach, friend, writer, co-worker, teacher, and supporter of all things endurance-based, to live a life that makes my fellow man see me the same way my dog sees me.
However, I'm still not going to make a resolution for the coming year, because that would suggest the fact I've failed at one or more things, slacked-off in a particular area, and decided to redouble my efforts to return to a former state of grace. Instead, I'm going to consider them as publicly-declared goals for the coming year. I hope each of you can find inspiration in one or more of the following categories:
1. Find an event, a race distance, or a venue beyond the familiar. Some places are notable for the (over-)abundance of a single event distance, or the same course every month. A friend is directing an event which consists of seven marathons in seven days between Christmas and New Years; she told me all of her participants are coming from outside the immediate area. The 5,000-meters (more or less) is king here.
When Suzanne plans a business trip, she now checks race calendars and hash kennel web sites with the same level of scrutiny as she does hotel accommodations and airline fares. If she can fit in a race, it's all that much more worthwhile. If I can't go she tries to bring me back a race shirt. If there's a really good race she asks me to consider taking time off. This year, for me, the trip race is a half-marathon in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada's capital city.
2. Give back to the community. Running is fun. Running clubs are fun. Running club politics, not so much. But that doesn't mean you can't help fold t-shirts at a packet pick-up for a race, or hand out water at an aid station. There are jobs so far back in the shadows that you may never hear someone complain, but without it the race director ends up with a half-dozen additional gray hairs.
This autumn I've taught a friend to measure courses; he gets a progressive percentage of the proceeds. If the race is for a non-profit we donate a portion of the cost back to the beneficiary (Thank you, Suzanne, for suggesting this!). Our second serious measurement job together was for a non-profit, which led to a race sponsorship, and our company's logo on the event shirt.
The national governing bodies for road racing (USATF) and triathlon (USAT) are always in need of volunteer officials to support their efforts. Nobody who gets into this makes a lot of money, much less a living, but it's - again - one of those jobs which someone has to do to give everyone else the chance to run.
3. Take care of unfinished business. A triathlon in Panama City Beach sent this writer to the emergency department for five hours a couple of years ago. The experience was enough to get into my head (not to mention my wallet) and stay there until the same time I was about 400 yards into a certain lake some five months later.
We all have one race or more that's kicked us in the chops. This year could be the year for payback. What do you have to do to make it happen? What kind of focus is it going to take? Might it involve an investment of time or a small amount of money? What's it worth to you?
4. Bring someone into the fold. I've always considered running to be the most democratic of sports. Even the most biomechanically-inefficient of us can participate, given a pair of shoes which does not damage us. The vast majority of elite runners I've met have been gracious and kind; there are jerks in the community, but no different than in "real life."
As human beings we're all social creatures. While there are people who prefer to train alone, there's still a need to be considered part of a community, even if on the periphery. Most running clubs can be selective, if they wish, about their membership, but I prefer to think the deepest circle of hell is reserved for those (social running groups) who willingly exclude others from their rolls...for no good reason.
(Forgive me, that was a "soapbox" moment.)
It might mean taking a walk with someone who doesn't run much. It could be running farther back in the pack at a 5,000-meter race. Or something drastic and out of the ordinary. Let your imagination, er, run wild. If I can accomplish all four of these goal areas I have no doubt there will be at least a few more happy people in the running community. Perhaps even in the community as a whole. What "big, hairy, audacious" goal have you slated for the new year?
Here's to a safe, mileage-filled, healthy and successful 2012!