2023 on The Run: The Highs and The Lows

Written by: Andrew Ware
January 5, 2024

A Quote is on My Mind

John Elway once said,

“I’ve experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. I think to really appreciate anything you have to be at both ends of the spectrum.”

John Elway (found at https://www.azquotes.com/quote/89021)

It has taken me a bit to write this recap, and as I think back to last year on the run, this quote came to my head. It wasn’t this exact quote, but in a quick Google search, I found the exact quote my mind was pondering. 2023 truly had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for me when it came to running.

  • I will note that my highs and lows were comparable to my own life. I know others have lower lows than me, but as I reflect on my year, my lows felt pretty low for me.

Strong Start!

The year felt like it was starting so well.

As we moved through the first few months of the year, my miles just seemed to get easier. I felt like I was in some of the best shape of my life, and every workout seemed to surprise me with how comfortable I felt, even for the speed work, I kept knocking down time and feeling stronger. 

Race Recaps

For those of you who have been along the journey with me since January 2023 know that March was the peak of the mountain. All of that hard work in the fall, winter, and spring of 2022-2023 know that it paid off with a 7-minute personal best in the half marathon at the Shamrock Half Marathon. For a full recap of that race, click here.

I truly felt on top of the mountain and continued to play on that peak. I went to race in Richmond for the Monument 10k (an annual tradition for me and one of my favorite races), and despite some pain, I still pulled off a great result. Check that race recap out here.

Despite a “sub-par” race in my mind, I knew I was still in great shape for myself. I knew I had a lot more on the horizon to accomplish.

Mountaintop vs Plateau

The worst part about being on top of the mountain sometimes can be, how far we can fall. This is not to say that it is inevitable, but when it happens it hurts. In the run coaching sphere, we try to stay away from mountaintop language and instead view things as moving from one plateau to another. You continue to build, but at some point, you hit a plateau, re-evaluate things, and then find the next hill to climb.

However, for me, in this season, I went into a valley. 

In June I hyperextended my knee (a knee that a decade ago I had prepared and often gives me trouble anyway). Read about that heartbreak here.

I had to take six weeks off running to let it heal and work on re-strengthening my knee. Then when I started to run again (after six weeks) I worked my way back in slowly, knowing I had lost quite a bit of the fitness I had gained the last year.

It all seemed to be progressing well until after a week and a half of returning to running (I had been only doing running/walking really) I had a case of Achilles tendonitis flare up. Now again I was on the sidelines healing an injury. I took it easy for the next 2 weeks, either not running at all, doing some moderate walks, or getting very easy miles. 

Not Injured, but Feeling Off

At this point, I was about 10 weeks post-knee injury. As I started to return to running, my body just felt off. I began to struggle not just with the energy to run, but energy to function in other places. I would often sleep most of the day when I wasn’t trying to get things done. I was constantly exhausted. I consulted my doctor to get some answers, and at this point, I have discovered I have an iron deficiency (as a result of low ferritin, a protein essential in storing iron in the body to be used by hemoglobin). Read about that experience here.

Fighting with my Body

It felt like it was taking forever to just feel like myself on the run again. Yes, I enjoy running fast and I like to push myself to improve my time and fitness. However, I do acknowledge that times and paces do not define me. When I started running again after starting iron supplements, I had lost almost 3 minutes off of my previous easy. This did not bother me, but what bothered me was that running still didn’t feel as natural as it used to.

I’d often fight with myself to go on runs, and even the longer runs felt daunting. I deferred races or dropped down in distances, and I was not proud of my running.

Rock Bottom

Hitting rock bottom feels different for everyone, and I am sure I could have gone much lower. However, this felt awful for me, but I continued to step back and evaluate my life on the run. I love running…I truly do, but running and I needed to figure something out. I kept going and just did what I could, what I wanted to, and slowly but surely the distance came back. I began to renew my passion and spirit.

Close the Year

As I closed out 2023, I did so taking a few days off running over my Christmas vacation. For five days I didn’t run. There was no injury. I wasn’t even that busy, I was at my in-laws and pretty much spent most of my time in a recliner reading. My body had been so worn; physically, mentally, and emotionally, not just by my year on the run but also by my year off the run. By running, by my vocation, and by everything. 

So I did…nothing, and I learned something.

I missed running.

When I returned home from my in-laws, I went for a run the next day. I thought I would make it a nice, easy 5k. However, I only ran 4k (about 2.5 mi), then I stopped and walked, and I felt fine with that decision. It was what my body needed that day. However, something great happened while I was running. Running felt easy, controlled…comfortable. It felt normal.

My mind has been thinking a lot about the highs and lows as I reflect on 2023. It harkens to that John Elway quote I mentioned at the top. Even more so my mind reflects on the lows (though this is probably recency bias). I struggle to imagine how a year that includes some of my fastest times also included some of my worst feelings on the run as well. 

It can be tough to stay positive when the lows seem so low, but sometimes we need to recognize the space for renewal as we go through the hills and valleys of life. 

Thank You…TRULY

As I reflect on this year, both the highs and lows, I think about what got me through every second of it. My supportive family. My run family, in the RunSomeMo Run Club, J&A Racing, and Tidewater Striders. Even to my extended run family back in Richmond, who continue to watch, support, and send encouraging messages. My church family, who knows I am a better pastor and person when I am caring for myself. Even folks who I have never met, but only know through social media, lift and support me. 

I would be nothing without those around me.

Goodbye 2023

I look back, and I appreciate the last year on the run. It was tough, but the highs were amazing, accomplishments I will hold to for years to come, and goals I hope to achieve. The lows remind me of what running is to me. It reminds me that it is a joy to be able to move, and of the support that is around me. 

Hello 2024

As I look to 2024, I don’t know what my goals are or what I hope to achieve on the run this year. I think I need a year without expectations. I think I need to rediscover my love for running. To find myself again, and exist within my spirit that has gotten me this far.

Check out some selfies from my year on the run

Author

  • Andrew Ware

    My vision as the RunninRev is to build community and faith relationships through running and self-care. I have become an advocate in the church for clergy care, and helping clergy prevent or recover from burnout. I see my primary outreach to the community as building these communal structures through running and having fun together on the run.

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