The year in footsteps

126 miles of racing

600 miles of training

That’s over 1 million steps

2017 has been quite a year for me as a runner (if not a blogger). I raced or had a significant event every month from May to December, I logged more hours and days in the field than I have for years, I kept track and kept up with my training plan (more or less), I returned to the marathon (plus) length and crushed my pace goal, and I finished the season with three half marathons each one faster than the one before.

Who cares? Sure, I’m really happy and proud and thankful that my health supported these goals and achievements (Yay me!), but a human body doing what it is adapted for? That shouldn’t be a big thing. I’m pretty sure “Yay me” isn’t an interesting story, other than the fact that our 21st century lives make living fully in our bodies damn near impossible. What is there to tell? I trained. I ran. I ran more than I ever have perhaps. I felt good. I spent time by myself outside. I spent time with friends outside. I spent time with people I didn’t know outside. I fought the urge to bury my head in the sand (sometimes, often times, unsuccessfully), I showed up to march and be heard with my sisters and in the name of science. And all the while beautiful things grew out of the ground, clouds appeared overhead, soil formed. Eggs hatched oblivious to my weekly mileage. Flowers bloomed, utterly unencumbered by my blistered toes. People suffered and died, regardless of how fast I ran.

Running is reassurance that I am alive, and the stronger I am the more ground I can cover, the more flowersbloomingeggshatchingcloudsappearingsoilforming I can see, the more pain I can refine and that is all that really matters in this endeavor. This year was terrible and beautiful, there was a lot of pain to face. The beautiful heart crushing pain of the children in my life unrelentingly growing up, the true pain of human tragedy–I visited my friend Kathy nearly a year out from the stroke that by all rights could have killed her and listened as she fixed her eyes on mine and explained with steely determination that she was not able to walk unassisted yet. The unnecessary pain of the chaos in the world, the suffering we knowingly cause each other. The weight of carrying it, the guilt of ignoring it.

Over a million steps in the service of building the capacity to take in the world in all of its beautiful and broken forms, and still there are long moments when I don’t think I can do it. When the pain is real and swirling around in my chest. But then there are mornings like this one, when I ignore the wind chill warning and track up the unbroken snow, skiing along where Coyote and Weasel walked hours before. When the air is so cold and dry the trees pop and crack, and the sun shines unimpeded by any hint of humidity. It’s too cold to grin, I can’t stop grinning.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sarah O'Malley

About Sarah O'Malley

Sarah is a science educator, naturalist, writer, tide pool fanatic and burgeoning obsessive trail runner. From personal experience she believes strongly in the restorative power of contact with nature, especially experiences that make your heart beat a little faster or get your hands and feet dirty. She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula with her husband and two dogs.