With only a week or so left in 2016, this year will probably go down as one of the best years of my life. When I think back on everything that happened and all I accomplished in running and in the rest of my life it was really an amazing year. For starters, I am having a daughter, that single accomplishment alone makes this year so amazing but so much more happened. I ran PR’s, I went on trips with friends and family, when on a few running related trips, rocked another Man Weekend, broke some bones, won a Soccer Championship, finally took the step to improve my mental health and have begun therapy (one of the best decisions of my life), saw several friends get married, and was fortunate enough to have some of the best friends as a part of my life. When I think back it’s just been an amazing journey this year and I can’t wait to reflect back and see if 2017 can top it.
When I think back to my running year I think the best way to break it down is into 3 separate seasons. I had my Pittsburgh Half season from Jan – May, then I had my summer of “I’m up for anything” cue Bud Light commercial from May until September, and then I finished the year from September to November with my JFK season. So much happened throughout this year that it will be impossible to reflect on it all. I raced 34 different times, ran over 2800 miles and always felt like my fitness was always there when I needed it. Several weekends I even ran races in back to back days, something I’d never thought of doing in previous years. I PR’ed from the mile to 50 mile this year (post college), and won some prize money for the first time in my life. I experienced life in so many different ways taking on challenges I never thought I could. And enjoyed so many wonderful moments with friends along this running journey. Trips to LA, San Diego, Pittsburgh, and even a fun journey out to Boonsboro, MD. I think the best way to reflect back on the year is just hit on some of the highlights of each season.
Let’s start from the beginning of the year because it sets the stage for the end quite nicely. I started off 2016 hitting the trails several times, including a time early in January where I could barely run 8:00 minute pace as I was getting dropped at Greenbelt, and followed that up running at Patapsco for the Matchbox 20k (The best race in Honor of Rob Thomas and Co in the World). Funny as I ran on the trails of Patapsco I remember talking through two conversations. The first was how I hate trails, I’ll never do a trail race and secondly a lengthy discussion about racing too much and how I remember saying anything over 20 races a year I’ll never do as you are harming your chances at success. Hmm. During these 5 months I ran 11 Races of varying distances, but the race I remember the most would be Tim Kennard 10 miler. Really one of my best races of the year where I ran sub 55 minutes for 10 miles, got second and set the stage for this entire year confidence wise. It was also an amazing trip put together by one of the best running families you will ever meet “The Peck’s”, who are always a so supportive. I also went over the Bay Bridge for the first time ever! This cycle also including an amazing group runventure to LA to be a part of the Olympic Trials and support our boy Andy Weaver and watch some friends run the LA Marathon(a must do), but really just a really fun trip with a bunch of friends. We stayed in the wrong part of town, LA #3 I think, went on a 12 mile hike to the Hollywood sign where we all thought it would never end, and watched many professional athletes run for their chance to make the Olympics. A trip I’ll never forget. Also a quick half in DC (545) with Conrad was quite a fun day! I end off phase 1 of my year with a trip with several friends to Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Half. Another great race you should add to your list although I did not run the time I wanted I PR’ed and was happy nonetheless. I also learned an important lesson to not get carried away when your fitness goes well, stick to your goals you set in the beginning. Onward!
Phase 2 began a couple weeks after Pittsburgh and consisted of 10 races mostly in the 5k to 10 mile variety. It began with my first trail race a 5 mile mud filled adventure at Gunpowder on a weekend where I raced Saturday, attended an epic Bachelor party that evening and rolled out the next day for a 5 mile race. That ended up more or less being the theme of my summer, I’m up for whatever. After a good run at McVet’s I was convinced by Pete Mulligan, who became a huge part of my year in supporting me from the Falls Road Running Store to just everyday training and even at races, to do Baltimore 10 miler. That race and the Bel Air Town Run I managed to race over the same weekend and got 3rd in both, and was amazed at how well I recovered from day to day. The summer also included a couple teammates and I joining a Social Soccer League, and despite all odds becoming champions! All of us of course getting injured in some form or another along the way, but Das Boot will be ours forever (FUPA FC!). I finished this phase off with my first Ultra Race down in Rosaryville. One of the main reasons I did this race was spectating for some friends at HAT run and just falling in love with the atmosphere of ultra-running. Everyone was so friendly, supportive and just hung out afterwards for hours eating and enjoying their accomplishments. I knew I wanted to try this and set this race as a new challenge. I ended up loving my first 50k, and had the luxury of having Mike Mashner run the first half with me reminding me to eat (could have used you at JFK!), stay hydrated and keep things under control and having Meg McNew give great support the whole time. A fun end to a summer of whatever. I learned the valuable lesson of if your toes seem broken, they probably are broken don’t “Bryn it up”.
Phase 3 begun with me taking the plunge and signing up for my first 50 miler, despite advice from friends suggesting maybe I should get some more ultras under my belt (in retrospect probably solid advice). Phase 3 had me racing 11 times starting out with some shorter stuff and then moving into the longer variety. An amazing adventure of 15 weeks or so of buildup towards JFK had me putting in some serious miles. I raced and won my only ever RM Classic and now Ryan McGrath will have to live his life forever attached to me! However I think the best memory from this training cycle was the Baltimore Marathon Relay, where I ran the entire thing with my relay team. But having a year where I met so many different runners through so many ways, it was amazing to see them all out on the course. Either running or cheering it really brought this whole running community together for me in a way I’ve never experienced before. I also ran probably the race of my life getting 4th at the Atlantic City Marathon in a new shiny PR, which was totally unexpected. Additionally, I had the best time working at the Baltimore Marathon Expo for the Falls Road Running Store where I got to see so many friends and experience working with something I am truly passionate about. I’ve gone into great detail about my JFK 50 miler, but ended my year off with that race and it puts no damper on how amazing 2016 was. I learned a valuable lesson of take in more calories in a 50 mile race you idiot! It all ended with a special somewhat nice speech from RM (proceeded by 1 hour of roasting me mercilessly) being named MVP for the year for our running group. Which was a really nice ending.
There are way too many people for me to be thankful for in 2016 for being a part of my journey and helping me accomplish what I have done. For starters the Falls Road Running Store has been such a huge part of my life for everything they do from giving back to the running community, to helping me with my career (Seriously shop there, you will not be disappointed). I am so lucky to have a store that supports the community and me like they do. My Falls Road teammates have been nothing but amazing this year. They are some of my best friends on and off the roads, and they support me like no other. The reason I continue to be as passionate about running and it is as large of a part of my life is thanks to this amazing group of people who make everything so much fun(See Chug & Run Relay). My family is so wonderful for everything they do for me with running and I would be lost without that support system in my life. Of course my amazing wife Kelly who puts up with my addiction to racing and going out almost every weekend to run a race or run for hours on end. There are not many wives in the world who would put up with me, but you are amazing! (By not many wives I mean 0 other ones, I mean most people can barely put up with me for several hours in an evening). Lastly just the Maryland Running community, you all make running so awesome in this state. When I quit running back in 2002, I never thought I’d come back but here I am but with a new perspective. I want to run fast obviously but I love everything I see people doing to keep running going strong in our community. There are so many clubs and teams across the state that do so much to make running available for all of us. Everything all us runners are able to do is from the hard work of everyone to make running so special to us.
The most important lesson I learned in 2016 that will stick with me forever is to just enjoy everything about running. Enjoy every run, enjoy the time spent with friends or teammates together doing runs. Enjoy the races, enjoy the people you meet and the hard work that goes into everything. Enjoy all the friends you made from running and realize they are a part of your life. I think the hardest perspective for me to learn coming from being a college competitive runner in the early 2000’s racing a clock and living and dying on the results to now is to care about the people you meet along this journey. And to just enjoy the journey. There is always another race, but to share memories and fun with friends will always be a priceless thing you might regret one day.
Here’s to an amazing 2017 for everyone!