On New Year’s Eve, on the mostly empty campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, a few runners and public radio supporters get together for the Resolution Run 5K, a fundraiser for the independent and local public radio station KRFC. Over the last decade, I have participated in this race five or six times and it just might be one of my favorite traditions ever. It’s small, low-key, and even in the midst of winter, it has grassroots.
The race is scheduled early in the evening, so those that need to get their party on to ring in the New Year have plenty of time to run and then shower and celebrate. For those with little ones, they can race as a family and still get home before the night’s revelers are out making messes and mischief. For those who will need a day of recovery after the night’s celebration, this little race offers the chance to do preventative penance beforehand. For hermits like me, the early evening run allows the chance to say goodbye to the old year and still get home to curl up with a good book, my journal, and maybe a glass of wine to welcome the beginning of another turn around the sun.
I have walked this race alone and quiet, settling into my Colorado routine, pondering the years and where they will take me. I have run this race angry and upset, my feet pounding out the frustration as I tried to outrun my nasty feelings before the end of the year. I have shivered in just-above-zero temperatures, slowly picking my away around the snow and ice cleared for the race path. I have run-walked this race in heartbreak, on the edge of a break-up with my soon-to-be-ex-partner as we moved together in silence, both of us trying not to cry while holding hands one last time. This year I ran and walked in almost warmth, recovering from a congested Christmas cold, as I thought about sweating out 2013 and opening up my heart and mind and body for 2014.
The runners and walkers meet in a small lecture hall, placing layers and jackets on the swivel chairs. Hot chocolate and hot cider are offered in small paper cups by volunteers in the lobby of the building. Plenty of restrooms leave little to no lines as racers relax in the rare-before-a-race-portapotty-free-zone. Last minute registrants stab safety pins to race numbers. As race time approaches, the energy in the room picks up. Nimble runners stretch hamstrings and calf muscles, others jog in place. Festive participants put on the last of the New Year’s Eve costumes including tutus, light-up necklaces, and neon yarn knit beanie caps. The public radio deejay, the honorary emcee for the evening, gathers the crowd in the classroom with last-minute instructions and a wish for speed and safety. Another radio nerd, bespectacled and his khakis fastened with safety-lit velcro straps, is the race ranger who knows the course inside and out. He will ride ahead of the first runners, showing the way with his dancing LED bike lights, winding through the empty campus with no cars near or around the course. Volunteers with light-up-the-night-head-lamps shake cowbells and point the way around traffic cones all along the 3.1 mile course.
I start out running, despite my lingering cold and out-of-shape body, finding the long-remembered tradition, of start lines and race-induced nerves with a sprinkle of adrenaline, hard to resist. I run for a mile before I tucker out, the race leaders having already reached the half-way-turn-around point. I slow to a fast walk, moving around a Christmas tree couple and passing what looks to be an 80-year-old-yoga teacher, birdlike in her small supple movements. Others chat and talk, one couple plans their night while reining in a hyper golden retriever on a blue leash.
I wheeze, one of the few race participants flying solo. With each step I think about the past year. I wonder at the passing of time. I remember the trips to Nebraska and South Dakota. I hum to myself, back in Canada for the rainy Dixie Chicks concert with my sister Kelly in July. I think about friends and family, those with whom I have lost touch and those who nestle in my messy heart. I ponder the growth and adult lives of my nephews and niece. I think about teaching and going to school. I think and pray for those no longer with me. I remember my days of this past year, both good and bad, balanced with the perspective of both. I feel my heart beating and speculate on the adventures that lie ahead. Sometimes I make resolutions on this run. This year, instead of setting myself up for failure with a lofty list of resolutions, I think of the direction in which I want to move. How can I move, lighter and faster and fitter, with kindness, intention, and patience?
The volunteer near the 2.75 mile spot (not marked, but measured by my feet and feeling) tells me I only have a “little ways to go now!” As with the race, as with the year. I can feel sweat, welcome from the effort, and imagine each droplet as part of 2013 flying away. A brief gust of wind picks up, chilling me quickly, and I imagine it is 2014 welcoming me into the fold. Movement and change is constant. Work and effort and play and comfort and the gaze forward pull me to the final line, the handful of people clapping and cheering for us all, no matter our speed or effort.
My resolution is to find. Find the path, find the joy, find the sadness. Find the work, find the play. Find the space to love and be loved. Find my keys, find my way, find my freedom, find my duty. Find the kindness and the patience. Find the bravery to be bold and find the humility to serve. Find the way to follow-up and follow through. Find the way to match my words with my actions. Find the way to embrace the mistakes and the mess. Find the way to let go. Find the way to enjoy the success and synergy. Find the truth and the light. Find the way to guide and to be guided. Find the way to comfort and to be comforted.
I cross the line and I look into the night. I breathe deeply. I find my way into the new year. I want to find my way, letting go of the dead weight to make space for new, while embracing all that is ahead.