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Fall is the perfect time to set new running goals
While New Year's is the traditional time to set new goals, fall is the season of change for me. It's a time to rethink my running goals and set my sights on the upcoming year. - photo by Kim Cowart
While most people set new goals while ringing in the new year, fall has always been my New Years Day. Its almost as if the change in the leaves inspires a change in me. My whole life has been spent in education in one capacity or another, and fall means fresh pink erasers, crisp new folders and a brand new wardrobe. Fall, with its promise of cooler morning temperatures and new school pictures, reinvigorates the side of me thats been lounging by the pool in the summer heat.

This is the time when I press my reset button, take stock of where I am and start fresh. I love autumn for the same reason I love mornings and Mondays (dont hate me). Its a fresh start a new beginning, a do-over. Ive never needed this new beginning more than I have needed it now. Running isnt my entire life. Its not my identity. Its not my only interest or hobby. At this stage in my life, the role running plays in my life is so vastly different than it was 10 years ago. My reasons to run are completely different, but thats another column for another time.

What hasnt changed is my desire to do my best. I didnt say be the best. I will never be the best, but that doesnt keep me from striving and pushing and stretching myself to new limits. I want to continue to grow, to learn, to improve.

Running during the last year was sorely disappointing. Two weeks after my last marathon of 2014, I injured my Achilles. Three weeks after returning to running post-Achilles injury, I injured my hamstring. It was a crazy game of dominos from that point on one setback triggering another. The good news is I found the source of many of the problems and am well on my way to making a comeback. The bad news is I found the solution too late to save my 2015 race season.

I really didnt think I would care. I truly am happy to run, fast or slow. Its a gift. But knowing where I was last year and seeing where I am now, well, its a hard pill to swallow.

I thought the competitive side of me would sit in the back row, quiet, patiently waiting for me to heal. Instead, she roared awake at the sound of every start gun. She pushed my legs hard in the early miles only to watch those same legs die a slow, agonizing death the last few miles.

My last marathon of 2015 was both a great disappointment and a huge relief. I should have won that race by a large margin. Instead I came in third, a personal worst on that course by 13 minutes. While friends and family congratulated me, internally I was playing that game where your annoying sibling has you by the wrists, making you slap yourself in the face while taunting, Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? Except that annoying sibling was me and I really was beating myself up.

The relief? I realized this season was one of many. I had two great years of running before it. I was bound to have a crummy one. And one crummy season doesnt mean every season will be the same. Disappointments happen to us all. How we handle them is what defines us.

I let myself have one weekend to be upset. I let myself feel the dismay. I let myself be sad. Its OK to feel these things. Its necessary to acknowledge them. Then its time to move on.

Im disappointed because I care, and thats a good thing. The competitive side of me has always been there. It's what pushed me to do well in school. It's what gave me the confidence to teach college at the age of 22. It's what gave me the courage to move to Las Vegas without knowing a soul to teach at an inner-city high school in North Las Vegas. It's the voice in my head that tells me to take a giant leap of faith and just do it. And when I fall, or fail, it's what picks me up again, determined to try again. Without it, I wouldnt be writing this now.

My weekend wallowing in misery is over. I woke up Tuesday morning to blue skies and the perfect fall chill in the air. I met Shelly at the lake and we ran our 10-mile loop while I spilled my guts. By the time we got back to the car, my mind was as clear as the sky was blue. Its a new day. A fresh start. A chance to be better, to do better. I climbed in the drivers seat, punched my reset button, and drove myself toward a new season.
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