A New Year's Meditation: the Lure of Final Things

The time to make resolutions, renew commitments, and set goals comes at the worst possible time for runners--for when we step on to the trail we find a layered cake of ice and snow. It's not easy to get out in these conditions here at the turn into 2014.

What we see out the door right now is not what many would describe as the romance of winter running: lightly falling flakes, no wind, and a four inch powder cushion.

So what is the nature of our resolution? How do we orient our inner selves to take on another year of trail running when things are not looking so great out there?

The proper attitude of orientation, I suggest, meditates on "final things." Well, not really final things like the grim reaper and all of that, although "where would I like to be with my running this time next year?" is not a bad attitude to take.

Instead I mean "final" in the sense of "for the sake of which."

What causes us to run is the lure of some end that seems worth it: better health, being outdoors, our desire to participate in something with others, and simply being the kind of person that can find some enjoyment in the elements; that is, the elementary facts you face when you push off one foot and land with another at about 160-180 strides per minute. Whether it's 15 degrees or 95 degrees doesn't matter so much--it just changes the experience a little bit.

These ends--the lure of some future promise--are not static or inert or merely abstract. They are alive and real in that they present an intriguing contrast between what is and what might be. So as we begin this new year, we might do well to remind ourselves what ends those are that lure out the door. When we reflect on them, hold them out before us, they work a kind of powerful magic that day-by-day changes us. They don't change with the seasons, but we do a little bit.