I've heard it said if you set something free and it comes back it was meant to be. That is the unanswered question that I look to find an answer for in 2020. A year that seemed like the perfect time for a self-imposed break from racing ultra marathons. Running isn't something I've always been into but for the last dozen years, It became a passion of mine. Spending time alone, running trails always in pursuit of that mountain high. Like most hobbies, it started slowly and built toward bigger challenges, longer races and more miles run. I loved to run and it didn't matter if it was road, trail, or treadmill. City or mountain, rain or shine. But somewhere in 2019, I began to question my motivations for the 3000+ miles per year I had been running for the past number of years and I came to realize that what I really loved about running was running itself and not necessarily the pursuit of another finish line. I still pursue the run because I still love the solitude and purity of the act itself. There is and will always be a special place in my heart for deep rhythmic breathing on a warm and sunny morning in springtime. Running in nothing but shorts and sandals on buffed out single track with just the right amount of tackiness. Just being there for the off chance I might again experience the rarely found but highly sought after "runner's high". All that said, I decided that 2020 would be a great time for a transition. A moment to pump the brakes and step away on my own terms. I had become enthusiastic about making 2020 a reset of sorts, an opportunity for new challenges. But instead of challenges where I spend time training and racing in the mountains by myself, I now would train with and look forward to spending time in the mountains with my best friend, my wife Rebecca, as we attempt to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail beginning May 10th.
Hiking a long-distance trail and ultramarathoning are completely different endurance events but do share a few broad similarities. Both have a start and finish line. Both require planning, logistics and the need for finances. Both share a race against the clock. However one clock is defined by a race director, and the other by mother nature. An every changing window of opportunity from springtime to early winter that the would-be thru-hiker must constantly monitor. But as with anything new, there is a process of learning. A degree of uncertainty around every bend. A sense of adventure and excitement beyond each new sunrise that I have yet to fully wrap my thoughts around. There will be no guarantees of success, nor any regret for opportunities left behind. I guess that's what 2020 is destined to be.
Words and photos by Eric Johnson.