Cross Country Collections: Reader Participation Desired!

Cross Country Collections: Reader Participation Desired!

We want YOUR stories and memoirs about those workouts that never should have happened

A 15 miler starting at 11:00 PM. 5×1 mile at race pace after a 13 hour work day. 50 mile an hour winds. -50 degrees. 50 mile an hour winds and -50 degrees (also known as FARGO). A run in a strange city, on a strange trail, with strange things.

Any runner worth their salt has had at least one or two (but probably more like one or two dozen runs) that just shouldn’t have happened. In some way, circumstances (weather, health, environment, location, timing, workout difficulty in combination with all of those factors) tried get your prefrontal cortex to act decisively, abolishing any notion of following through with the planned workout. While it wins out sometimes, the great ones are defined by their ability to subdue ‘matter’ by way of ‘mind,’ and the result is a whole lot runs which, by all reasonable standards, probably should not have occurred. Personally, since I have been married, my wife’s willingness to be my domestique, a faithful, loyal, selfless partner in ensuring the fruitfullness of my athletic endeavors, has resulted in some pretty bizarre, unlikely scenarios where I managed to squeeze in a workout (downtown Chicago after 13 hours in the car; 6 PM…Me, speaking with unfound confidence as if this is my hometown: “I’ll meet you at the Hershey storefront … you can find me it will be no big deal … I’m going to run up the Lake Michigan shoreline and then turn around after a bit….weave my way back …be there in …72, 73 minutes .. K BYE LOVE YOU!”)

I think splitting this further into two categories is wisest (Look at us, dissecting such an important running topic). One type is characterized usually by a moment or moments where you realize just how crazy it is that right now, at this time in space, you are running. If you are confused, stay with me, and I’ll try to explain. This happened to me last night, in fact.

I was running on a lonely gravel forest road above our house (so like 11,500 feet), and dusk had settled in completely. The moon is huge, the clear Colorado sky is packed with stars, and the shape of the Mount Massive range is like a fake cut out from the scene from the old T.V. special “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer.” I take it in like it’s on my own private mega-super-omin-theatre screen, descending the long, gradual, 3 mile hill in pure bliss. The temperature has dropped to a crisp 38, but I’m in shorts and a shirt and doing just fine. Once I eventually descend into the more developed (this hardly says anything in speaking about where we live) part of Beaver Lakes Estates, I see a few log cabins illuminated by a warm fire. No one is out now – I picture them curled up next to a fire, dry and clean, probably wearing comfy sweats, and reading a book …and I envy them. Paradoxically, I am feeling spiritually filled by every step I take. In the dark, I feel like I’m flying, and even though I’ve earned this long descent towards home, I decide to turn around and go back up the mountain for another heart-thumping dash because…why not? The realization that in a 200 mile radius, I might be the only person doing what I’m doing, plus the beauty of nature all around me, is invigorating and energizing.

Now, does that make sense? So, that is category one …We’ve all had some fun runs like that I’m sure. In fact, I think a lot of runs in the dark or in the rain are like that. The thrill makes you run faster, makes it feel easier, and makes you feel more …like a runner. Once you’ve done one of these runs, there is a subconscious awareness of the reality that you have now been baptized officially into the ‘real’ runner’s cult/family.

Then, there is this other type. These are the man-maker runs. Either the workout itself is inherently difficult – intervals, a long run, a long tempo, hills – and before attempting, you feel so mentally, physically, and emotionally drained – a Calvinist might say you are totally depraved of any ability and completely unable – to even imagine starting the workout, much less finishing. In fact, a lot of these workouts start with the runner, coffee (weak attempt …you are so gone now even that won’t help) in hand, sitting in a chair, staring at the wall because, frankly, that is the only bodily function they have the required energy to carry out. Tying the running shoes requires a quick 2-minute break. And if you wait much longer, you the likelihood of you taking them back off and just eating dinner increases with every second. These are the days where the phrase “getting out the door is the hardest part,” takes on a whole new meaning.

Or, even though the run itself is pretty standard – 45 minutes to 75 minutes lets say – it shouldn’t have happened because you squeezed it in before your wedding, did it along the interstate on a drive through the night, completed it post Taco Bell at 2 AM, or ran it when the weather was so bad, everything in town was closed. This run also belongs in category two because again, circumstances really tried to get in your way, but your Boston Marathon dreams prevailed.

My memory when it comes to workouts is disturbingly strong. I can, if I’m sitting in front of my training journal, read the sloppily handwritten text: “60 minute run” and remember not only what flavor oatmeal I had and what happened in 4th period at school, but recall that I ran on the fish hatchery trails, got a late start, was in a melancholy mood over my bike derailer being still broken and thus my life was in shambles, and thought about a combination of why now is the time to get a dog, what I might name our first child, and RC Sproul’s definition of ‘free will’, and how I wished, if I could, will the indigestion out of my constantly ailing large intestine. So, for me to say that some runs are etched into the fabric of my running memory clearer than others may (or may not) say a lot.

What is clear, however, is that those runs that shouldn’t have happened are a big reason why future runs ever did happen. They are the moments and memories that made the sport fun, peppered it with spice, colored it with joy, attitude, and toughness, and live on in the soul in a special way.

Before I share a few of my favorites, I would love to hear from you. Comment below, comment in our Facebook post, or email us at It’s ok to brag about a workout – we do it all the time – or to add intimate details — we do that, too. I look forward to being brought into your world and reading your story.


Who wants to go for an easy 10? (sure….maybe 10 seconds…)

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