Duty vs. Choice

gray pile of stones near trees
Photo by Fabian Reitmeier on Pexels.com

Hills. Never particularly cared for them, to be honest. Actually, I think I subconsciously avoid them quite a bit when running and even biking. Until recently, that is.

One of my favorite places to run happens to have quite a hill. It’s a hill that I used to plan my run around. I would always start in the direction where I could take advantage of the downhill and hit the “rollers” going the other way.

Lately, however, things have changed. For most of my life, I had considered myself a “road runner”. I’ve done numerous races since I was about 8 years old, starting with 5k’s and working my way up from there. About 15 years ago, I started doing half marathons. And then, marathons entered my race calendar and took over.

Don’t get me wrong; even though the majority of my training was on the road due to marathons and half marathons, as well as triathlons, I would still escape to the trails once or twice a week to get away from everything familiar.

I didn’t start trail racing, however, until about 4 years ago. Ask any one, it’s a whole new world on the trail.

I realized, rather quickly, how humbling hills and technical trails can be. Forget your pace, just keep moving forward the best you can. My first couple of trail races were literally in survival mode. My husband had to listen to my whine about pace and roots and hills….how he put up with me, I still don’t know.

But, something happened. I finally embraced the difficulty and took a different perspective. It was about time.

We signed up for a new race at a new venue that neither of us where familiar with. I had heard good things from lots of runners, and was curious about the race. We took a trip to said trail, just to get a taste of what we were in store for.

Wow. The trail is beautiful. The terrain is…well, challenging. That probably isn’t an accurate enough word. I can compare it to a trail that my husband and I run at frequently that’s close to home, from a technical perspective at least. But the elevation, well, that’s a whole different story.

So, we ran a sampling of the trail, went home and looked at maps. The elevation for this upcoming 50k is NO JOKE. I realized that I need to get my butt in gear for the next 5 weeks.

Before I knew it, I was heading over to that hill that I didn’t have a very good relationship with. But, this time, it was different.

Instead of approaching the hill with dread, I was excited. This hill was going to teach me something. This hill was going to mold me into something. This hill was what I needed.

That change in perspective, from obligation to CHOICE, changed everything. I was choosing to be there, I was choosing the challenge, I was choosing to use this hill as a tool. And the crazy thing is, I actually enjoyed that hill for the first time. My husband and I ran 4 repeats on the hill, and I survived. I didn’t walk it, either. Two weeks later, I did 5 repeats and then even did some repeats on other “rollers” on the trail, and it wasn’t all that bad. Because I was CHOOSING to do it.

Sounds so simple. When we choose something, it just feels different. Like all lessons with running, this carries over into life. Think about it….When someone suggests a solution to you, what do you do? Most people I know will listen politely, but unless it is their idea, they don’t follow through. Give them enough time, and they come around eventually and decide that it is a good idea. Once they make that CHOICE, the path is clear and easy.

Same thing here. I choose hills. Why? Honestly, out of fear for this upcoming 50k. I want my training to hurt and be difficult, so I can make it through race day in one piece. I choose my suffering now to prepare me for later.

What choices will you make today?

adventure backpack clouds conifers
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Run Happy. Run Long.


Amy is a marathoner and triathlete, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also a marathoner and triathlete), and kids in Lewis Center.

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