I’m reluctant to formally review and grade my performance in life over any well-demarcated time frame. When someone asks me, for example, “What were the high points and low points of April for you?” my mind’s natural tendency is to recognize but downplay the highlights and successes, and home in on and exaggerate the lowlights and failures. The fact that I know this is a common cognitive distortion does little to diminish my indulgence in it.
But here we are at the start of a calendar year, and I seem to frame everything in my life in terms of lists and numbers anyway (a natural tendency for someone who’s been a distance runner or involved in distance running for 33+ years). So, I can produce a list of things to be pleased about, almost none of which I claim credit for orchestrating from scratch, but all of which I at least showed up for.• For the first time in 10+ years, I ran a “real” race, as in a running event in which I worked hard from wire to wire and didn’t suffer inordinately from mental static. (I never got completely away from running, and in 2009 I even ran a marathon, pacing a friend to a 2:54. But going for it is completely different from being a domestique or a club-workout mascot.) It was not a fast performance, but they never really were and they sure as hell won’t be now or in the future. But I did get third in my age group in a rather large field, and I experienced a tentative glimmer of enjoying competing for its own sake again.
• I got to meet two of my coaching clients in person after “knowing” them, and helping put together their running plans, for years. This was delightful and motivating. Anyone who coaches other runners, be it in a physical, team environment or in an online capacity, will emphasize how motivating this can be.
• In a related spirit, I not only got to meet Ruben and his lovely fiancée, but also attended Ruben’s University of Massachusetts-Lowell Athletic Hall of Fame induction. It is really something to be able to work with someone as talented as driven as Ruben who wants his own running to serve primary as a vehicle for improving things in his country of origin. Naturally classy people like him make the rest of us want to do better things.
• I got to spend my mom’s birthday with her for the first time since…hell, I don’t even know. Since Bill Clinton was shagging interns, maybe. Or maybe that was me. Anyway, during the same trip I watched my oldest nephew, who is in high school now, play a soccer game.
• I had a book published. Having said that, I should probably check to see how sales are doing, since I think I and my co-authors are owed a royalty statement very soon.
• When I hurt my knee in mid-July and wound up with five weeks off, I didn’t mentally check out and give up on exercise outright, as I’ve usually done in the past in response to the relatively few injuries I’ve had. I can’t say I was as aggressive about rehab as I could have been, but I did pedal my Target bike around for at least a few miles every day and went to PT for about four weeks.
• Every year I try to do at least one piece of professional writing that has nothing to do with distance running and requires some diligent research. I was therefore really happy with the piece on Vivitrol I wrote for the Boulder Weekly in October. It’s not the kind of thing that’s going to receive much notice, but it reached lots of good local people on many sides in just the way I hoped it would.
• I strengthened a few existing friendships and made some brand-new ones. I could argue that this happens every year, but 2017 was different. You know who you are or at least I hope I have made some effort to thank you. If at any time I sat in a coffee shop with you and jabbered about Real Issues, you are one of the people I think of often with considerable gratitude.
• I had substantially more savings at the end of the year than at the beginning and it wasn’t because of the stock market. I am not sure the last time this happened, but I believe it was during the Pontius Pilate administration.
• 2017 was the first full calendar year since 1995 in which I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol. I saved this detail for last because every single thing I have written above rode along for the ride on the back of this one.
I probably just jinxed myself for the next 365 days, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.