Tag Archives: reflection

Ambition

I completed my 12th ultramarathon race last weekend — the 32 mile TARC Fells Winter Ultra Trail Race just north of Boston, MA. It wasn’t my fastest race (not by far), but I had fun, finished it in good style, and was honored to share the experience with 5 of my student athletes from Sterling, each of whom pushed themselves to meet or exceed the goals they had set for themselves. They have so much to be proud of, and had a great close to the season.

Each year at about this time, I start seriously planning the coming year’s adventures — poring over maps, reading descriptions, checking airfares. The snow has started falling in earnest, and I’ve already been out skiing nearly a dozen times with the anticipation of dozens more.

But I can’t help but think, where will running take me in 2018? 

Sometimes looking forward, though, means looking both inward and back.

When I was first hired at Sterling College in 2006, I had the honor to work with Will Wootton, the College’s President from 2006-2012, and this week I had the great fortune to attend a reading of Will’s new book, Good Fortune Next Time, which weaves together heartfelt stories of horse-packing and wrangling with the administration of small New England colleges.

Just after I left the bookshop, I turned on the overhead light in my truck and paged through the index to see if I had made it into the book somewhere, and there I was, on the top of page 198.

I was floored. I beamed. I smiled broadly to myself.

Then my heart started to settle. Deep into the pit of my insecurities.

Was I really those things? Was I still that person? Did the words of this man, whose opinion I valued so much and whose perspective I so deeply appreciated, match with the person into whom I had grown in the years since he hired me as dean in 2007?

Ambitious. That word stands out more than any other on that page. It’s also the word with the most subjective meaning. Many people look at the kinds of things I do and can’t even begin to understand the drive to run hundreds of miles at a stretch or to connect running, teaching, advocacy, and love of the wildness of far-flung places to help build some sort of climate resilience.

Yet.

In its etymology, ambition refers to the ambit, the circuit one walks in order to achieve a goal (or solicit votes, support, or some distinction). Quite literally, then, endurance running is the very definition of ambition.

It’s often very easy for me to convince myself that the goals I set for myself are largely insignificant.

So, what will 2018 bring? Sharing that will have to wait. First off, I’m taking December off from training — the first extended break from active training since 2014. It feels important right now to step back and take in the larger picture and figure out how I can match my drive for doing with being the best person I can be.

Come January, I think I’ll be ready to see what ambit awaits.

The Intensity of Experience

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Running the last stretch to Cadillac Mountain’s summit

We’ve all been there — a few extra moments to linger on a mountaintop, taking the long way home, waiting for the sunset, or staying one more night before heading home from an adventure.

It can be hard to admit when our cherished, blissful, and sometimes profound and life changing moments end and it’s time to let go and move on to the next thing. But they never really leave us, of course; our memories of places, people, the colors of the sky, the taste of salt in the ocean, the feel of wind against your skin, the sounds of songbirds — the places not only all persist within us, but they grow like the first green shoots of trout lily and trillium spear through the matted layers of last year’s leaves — blossoming radiantly precisely when they’re ready and needed.

This past weekend, a contingent of Sterling’s Skyrunners and I made the 6-hour trek to visit our friends at the College of the Atlantic on Mount Desert Island. We all made new friends and spent hours together running up and down granite outcroppings, ledges, and summit with names like Conner’s Nubble, South Bubble, Huguenot Head, Champlain, and Cadillac.

And of course, we ran across Sand Beach together 🙂

Sometimes it seems as if leaving something so profound only to return to our quotidian routine is to somehow slough off the very things we sought in the first place. We are nothing if not made up of these moments, but they grow stronger still if we share them — share the stories of our summits, scrambles over rocky ledges, and (really, really quick) swims in a cold northern sea.

If adventure is a way to meet the world head-on and see how we become permeable to the vast complexity of the nonhuman — then giving voice to those adventures, however small or grand they may be, is a way to build communities of compassionate, reflective, and engaged individuals who understand that there is only this one world we share, and every day we share the adventure of living here, together.

 

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The COA Black Fly Runners and Sterling Skyrunners on Sand Beach, Acadia NP