Reflections on 2020

Fierce Dragon Meme

Ok, so 2020 is at an end and I'm sure everyone is saying WTF right now. This has definitely been one of the weirder years with so much that we can't predict which definitely increased everyone's anxiety. But if you've been running ultra distances for a while - then you know that the unpredictable events are the only things you can count on. We have nothing that guarantees us to have our beloved 'finish' no matter who we are, how much we've been training, or what gear we brought to the event. I think we can apply that to our lives as well. Be thankful for every day that you enjoy because its never a guarantee. Looking back at the year, there were 2 critical events that we can look at how they affected the ultra running community and that would be the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic and the Black Lives Matter mmovement. I think in both of these we saw the compassion of the community but at the same saw some of the lack of compassion in respect to certain areas.

Fire Tower in the Smokies

Let's Start With The Good
The Covid-19 Pandemic has treated everyone differently, and as a teacher I feel like I have witnessed the world shift as well as my career shift. What I do in my classroom today is nothing that I ever thought I would be expected to be able to do. The pandemic has caused all of us to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable and to experts in skills sets that we have no prior training for. This is not too far off from training for ultras, right? In addition to this the BLM movement also brought alot of really sensitive topics to the top of the surface and continue to be part of our discussions. With both of these, the ideas of equity, fairness, and compassion are all there.

Big Bald on the AT

After spending part of the year in Alabama and the other part in North Carolina I've seen polar opposites of the reaction to these events in the population and the ultra running community. Since we have been isolated and alot of information has been consumed through social media, it was a pleasure to see many runners get behind race directors and support them when races were cancelled. I think the events of 2020 have shown everyone's true colors and the compassionate people out there really stepped up. I have always thought that this is the attitude of the ultra running community. These are my people. In addition to this, we've seen increases in diversity across the outdoor community as a result of people wanting to get out more. Hey, just check out what they've been doing with the Georgia Jewel races and their numbers of female participants. Compassion, love, sacrifice, these have been the ideals that I've always thought were part of the ultra community.

Foothills Map

Where To Improve
As a teacher, I always take time for introspection to see what I can be doing better. A few things that have rubbed me the wrong way are the high numbers of intolerant people on social media. I have felt the need to leave a few running groups online because of the amount of people that could not look past their privaledged point of view to take care of others. I can't believe that people have complained about race fees not being refunded or being asked to wear a mask at a race...seriously people? In addition to this is our lack of diversity to people that can't afford the sport. I do think ultra running is one of the easiest sports to get into from a financial point of view, but it does get expensive fast. When I run an overnight effort, I usually spend a ton of money just on nutrition not including gear to carry it or shoes or headlamps. Why not start sponsoring runners that can't afford races? Races are usually really tough to complete, but what about the athletes out there that can complete them, but just can't afford to get to the starting line?


What's To Come In 2021?
Right now we're staring down the new year and it's a little like looking at last summer. There's still a ton of uncertainty about the new year, but still alot of hope. One thing to take into the new year is to be present. Don't be happy that 2020 is over and don't be happy about the next weeks or months to come. Be present in the current moment and love every moment that you get and love every person that is part of your life. Yes, I have plans for the new year with fun runs, races, and FKTs, but that's not what will define my next year. I hope that you will make plans but also take joy in the events that are not part of your plans and support each other. There are so many needs out there currently and this is not the time to be selfish but the time to help each other out, no matter how hard it is.

Happy Trails Ryan

I want to read more!

Posted by Ryan James on 2020-12-31


© Running the Dirty South 2020 Made by Ryan James